Noam chomsky rethinking camelot jfk, the vietnam war, and us political culture

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  • 1. Rethinking Camelot Rethinking Camelot JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture Noam Chomsky Copyright © 1993 Go to the Table of ContentsAvailable in print from South End Press ($14 paperback, $30cloth). To order by credit card, or for information on quantitydiscounts, call 800-533-8478, or write: South End Press 116 Saint Botolph St. Boston, MA 02115Please add $3 shipping for the first book and 75 cents for eachadditional book. Archive | ZNet http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/ [3/9/2003 12:11:39 PM]
  • 2. Rethinking Camelot: Contents Rethinking Camelot JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture Noam Chomsky Copyright © 1993 Table of Contents Note: Each chapter is divided into [segments] of about eight paragraphs each. Introduction · Contours and Context [1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/14/15/16/17] One · From Terror to Aggression 1. The Doctrinal Framework [1/2/3/4] 2. Kennedys War [5/6/7] 3. Shared Ground [8/9] 4. Kennedys Plans and their Import [10/11] 5. The Prospects Look Bright [12] 6. JFK and Withdrawal: the Early Plans [13/14] 7. JFK and Withdrawal: the Dénouement [15/16/17/18/19] 8. The Presidential Transition [20] 9. LBJ and the Kennedy Doves [21/22] 10. A "Hostile Territory" [23] 11. Going North [24/25] 12. Militarily Strong, Politically Weak [26] 13. The Military View [26/27] Two · Interpretationshttp://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-contents.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:11:48 PM]
  • 3. Rethinking Camelot: Contents 1. The Early Version [1/2] 2. The Record Revised [3/4/5/6/7/8] 3. The Hero-Villain Scenario [9/10/11/12/13] 4. Kennedy and the Political Norm [14/15] Glossary Bibliography Cover | Archive | ZNethttp://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-contents.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:11:48 PM]
  • 4. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [1/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet I N T R O D U C T I O N Contours and ContextThe chapters that follow deal with a crucial moment of modern history, the escalation of the US war inVietnam from state terror to aggression from 1961 through 1964, setting the stage for the far moredestructive assault that followed. They were intended for another book, Year 501: The ConquestContinues, which is concerned with central themes of the 500-year European conquest of the world thatwas commemorated on October 12, 1992 and the forms they are likely to assume in the coming years.The war planning for Indochina illustrates rather clearly some leading features of the Columbian era. Itcould be regarded as a kind of case study, one of unusual interest and import. Nevertheless, the materialseemed special enough to warrant separate treatment. To keep this discussion more or less self-contained,I will sketch some of the relevant context, in part taken from Year 501.1Apart from the terrible consequences for the region itself, the Indochina wars had a considerable impacton world order and the general cultural climate. They accelerated the breakdown of the post-World WarII economic system and the shift to a "tripolar" global economy; and the internationalization of thateconomy, along with its corollary, the extension of the two-tiered Third World social model to theindustrial societies themselves as production is shifted to high-repression, low-wage areas. They alsocontributed materially to the cultural revival of the 1960s, which has since extended and deepened. Thenotable improvement in the moral and cultural climate was a factor in the "crisis of democracy" -- thetechnical term for the threat of democracy -- that so dismayed elite opinion across the spectrum, leadingto extraordinary efforts to reimpose orthodoxy, with mixed effects.One significant change, directly attributable to the Indochina war, is a growing popular reluctance totolerate violence, terror, and subversion. There was no protest or concern when the US was running amurderous terror state in South Vietnam in the 1950s, or when Kennedy escalated the violence tooutright aggression in 1961-1962, or when he and his successor stepped up the attack against the civilianpopulation through 1964. If the President wanted to send the US air force to bomb villages in some far-off land, to napalm people who were resisting the US attack or happened to be in the way, to destroycrops and forests by chemical warfare, that was not our concern. Kennedys war aroused littleenthusiasm, a factor in high-level planning as we will see, but virtually no protest. As late as 1964, evenbeyond, forums on the war were often -- literally -- in someones living room, or in a church with half adozen people, or a classroom where a scattered audience was assembled by advertising talks on thesituation in Vietnam and several other countries. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s01.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:23 PM]
  • 5. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [1/17]The press supported state violence throughout, though JFK regarded it as an enemy because of tacticalcriticism and grumbling. Much fantasy has been spun in later years about crusading journalists exposinggovernment lies; what they exposed was the failure of tactics to achieve ends they fully endorsed. TheNew York Times, expressing the conventional line, explained that the US forces attacking South Vietnamwere leading "the free worlds fight to contain aggressive Communism" (Robert Trumbull), defendingSouth Vietnam "against proxy armies of Soviet Russia" just as the French colonialists had sought todefend Indochina from "foreign-inspired and supplied Communists" (Hanson Baldwin). The US armyand its client forces sought to "resist" the Vietcong, southern peasants who "infiltrate" into their ownhomes and are "trying to subvert this country" in which they live (David Halberstam), enjoying morepopular support than George Washington could claim, as government specialists ruefully conceded.Kennedys brutal strategic hamlet program, which aimed to drive millions of peasants into concentrationcamps, was a praiseworthy effort to offer them "better protection against the Communists" -- local peoplewhom they generally supported -- marred only by flaws of execution (Homer Bigart). Such methodshaving failed, President Johnson decided in early 1965 "to step up resistance to Vietcong infiltration inSouth Vietnam" (Tom Wicker) -- the Vietcong being South Vietnamese, as recognized on all sides. Tothe end (indeed, to the present), the media reflexively adopted the framework of government propaganda,tolerating even the most outlandish fabrications and absurdities. Exceptions did exist, but they were rare.2As President Johnson sharply increased the attack against South Vietnam in early 1965, also extendingthe bombing to the North and introducing US combat forces, there were stirrings of protest, though theywere limited and aroused bitter antagonism. Take Boston, perhaps the center of US liberalism. The firstpublic protest against the war was in October 1965 on the Boston Common, with a huge police presence.It was violently disrupted by counterdemonstrators. The media angrily denounced the audacity of thosewho had sought to voice (embarrassingly timid) protests, but were fortunately silenced; not a word couldbe heard above the din. The next major public event was scheduled for March 1966, when hundreds ofthousands of US troops were rampaging in South Vietnam. The organizers decided to hold meetings inchurches, to reduce the likelihood of violence. The churches were attacked and defaced while policestood calmly by -- until they too came under the barrage. In suburban towns, mothers and children werepelted and abused when they stood silently in protest against the escalating war. It was not until late 1966that the climate began to shift.By the late 1960s much of the public was opposed to the war on principled grounds, unlike elite sectors,who kept largely to "pragmatic" objections of cost (to us). This component of the "crisis of democracy"was considered severe enough to merit a special designation -- the "Vietnam syndrome," a disease withsuch symptoms as dislike for war crimes and atrocities. When Ronald Reagan sought to emulateKennedy in the first weeks of his term, preparing the ground for a direct attack on "aggressiveCommunism" throughout Central America, the media went along as usual, but public protest quicklyinduced the Administration to back down in fear that its more central programs would be prejudiced;press critique of Administration fabrications followed some months later. The Reagan Administrationwas compelled to resort to clandestine international terrorism, at unprecedented levels, to avoid publicscrutiny.An early Bush Administration National Security Policy Review, leaked on the day US ground forces http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s01.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:23 PM]
  • 6. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [1/17]attacked in the Gulf, concluded that "much weaker enemies" (meaning any acceptable target) must bedefeated "decisively and rapidly," because any delay or resistance would "undercut political support,"recognized to be thin. Classical forms of intervention are no longer an option, the domestic base havingeroded. No more Marines marauding and terrorizing for years as in Wilsons days, or US Air Forceplanes bombing the South Vietnamese countryside in the Kennedy-Johnson style. The options are limitedto clandestine terror with foreign agents, so that the media can pretend they do not see and the public iskept in ignorance; or "decisive and rapid" blows against an enemy too weak to strike back after a hugecampaign to portray him as a demon on the verge of destroying us.Despite some changes, leading themes persist, and merit attention and thought. Naturally there arevariations as circumstances change, and the world is far more complex than any brief description of it.Nevertheless, we gain no little understanding of contemporary affairs by placing them in a largerframework of policies, goals, and actions with cultural and institutional roots that endure over longperiods. Go to the next segment.1 See 501 for much further discussion and sources. Also DD, and earlier work cited there.2On the media from 1950 through 1985, see MC and sources cited. On developments reviewed below,see my books cited in 501, and sources cited. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s01.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:23 PM]
  • 7. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [2/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 2/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet1. Military Science and SpiritAdam Smith described the voyages of Columbus and Vasco da Gama, opening up the WesternHemisphere and Asia to European conquest and setting the stage for the devastation of Africa as well, as"the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind." Writing in 1776, heunderstood very well the "essential contribution" of these achievements to the rapid development ofEurope, and was no less aware that they were "ruinous and destructive" to the populations subjected to"the savage injustice of the Europeans," which brought "dreadful misfortunes." With "the superiority offorce" the Europeans commanded, "they were enabled to commit with impunity every sort of injustice inthose remote countries" that they reached.The crucial role of Europes mastery of the means and culture of violence is substantiated bycontemporary scholarship. The inhabitants of Asia and the Western Hemisphere were "appalled by the all-destructive fury of European warfare," military historian Geoffrey Parker observes: "It was thanks to theirmilitary superiority, rather than to any social, moral or natural advantage, that the white peoples of theworld managed to create and control" their "global hegemony," historys first. "Europes incessant wars"were responsible for "stimulating military science and spirit to a point where Europe would be crushinglysuperior to the rest when they did meet," historian V.G. Kiernan comments aptly.3These traditional features of European culture emerged with great clarity in the Indochina wars. There is adirect line of descent from the English colonists who carried out "the utter extirpation of all the Indians inmost populous parts of the Union" by means "more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct ofthe conquerors of Mexico and Peru" (Secretary of War Gen. Henry Knox, 1794), to the "ethnic cleansing"of the continent, to the murderous conquest of the Philippines and the rampages in the Caribbean region,to the onslaught against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.4An indispensable feature of the "military science and spirit" in which European culture excelled, revealedonce again in the Indochina wars, is the talent described by Alexis de Tocqueville as he watched the USArmy driving Indians from their homes "in the middle of winter," with snow "frozen hard on the ground,"a "solemn spectacle" of murder and degradation, "the triumphal march of civilization across the desert."He was particularly struck that the conquerors could deprive people of their rights and exterminate them"with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and withoutviolating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world." It was impossible to destroy peoplewith "more respect for the laws of humanity," he wrote.The more humane thought it advisable to make the savages "happy and useful" so as to save "the pain andexpense of expelling or destroying them" (Jeffersons commissioners, preparing the next stage in the near- http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s02.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:26 PM]
  • 8. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [2/17]extermination of the Cherokees, continued under de Tocquevilles eyes, consummated by self-styled"philanthropists and humanitarians" half a century later). "We become in reality their benefactors" byexpelling the natives from their homes, President Monroe explained as the groundwork was being laid forJacksons Indian Removal Act. The perpetrators knew what they were doing, if they chose to know.Secretary of War Knox warned that "a future historian may mark the causes of this destruction of thehuman race in sable colors," looking askance at the genocidal practices of his countrymen. The "men ofvirtue" who ran the country also expressed occasional qualms. Well after he left power, John QuincyAdams became an outspoken critic of slavery and policy towards the indigenous population -- policiesthat he described as "among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it]to judgement." He hoped that his belated stand might somehow aid "that hapless race of nativeAmericans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty." But the recantationby the intellectual father of Manifest Destiny and domination of the hemisphere had no effect on theextermination, which continued in full ruthlessness.5Adams spoke from firsthand experience. One notable case, with long-term consequences reaching directlyto Indochina, was the "exhibition of murder and plunder known as the First Seminole War, ...one part ofthe American policy aimed at removing or eliminating native Americans from the Southeast," as WilliamWeeks describes General Andrew Jacksons "campaign of terror, devastation, and intimidation" againstthe Seminoles in 1818 in Spanish Florida, in his study of Adamss diplomacy. The Spanish Ministerconcluded that "the war against the Seminoles has been merely a pretext for General Jackson to fall, as aconqueror, upon the Spanish provinces...for the purposes of establishing there the dominion of thisrepublic upon the odious basis of violence and bloodshed" -- "strong language from a diplomat," Weekswrites, "yet a painfully precise description of how the United States first came to control the province ofFlorida."As Secretary of State, Adams had the task of justifying what General Jackson had achieved. So he did,using the opportunity to establish the doctrine of executive war without congressional approval that wasextended to new dimensions in the Indochina wars. Adams presented the justification and novel doctrinein his "greatest state paper," as the noted contemporary historian Samuel Flagg Bemis calls it admiringly,a document that impressed Thomas Jefferson as being "among the ablest I have ever seen, both as to logicand style." This racist diatribe, full of extraordinary lies, was designed to "transform the officiallyunauthorized conquest of foreign territory [Florida] into a patriotic act of self-defense and the UnitedStates from aggressor into aggrieved victim," Weeks observes. He suggests that Adams may have beeninspired by Tacitus, "his favorite historian," who caustically observed that "Crime once exposed had norefuge but in audacity." Steeped in the classical tradition, the founders of the Republic appreciated thesentiment. Go to the next segment.3 Kiernan, Lords, 15 6. 501, ch. 1. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s02.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:26 PM]
  • 9. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [2/17]4 See particularly Drinnon, Facing West. Knox cited by Horsman, Expansion, 64.5 Ibid. 122, 64. On the Cherokees, see 501, ch. 9.3. Weeks, JQA, 193. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s02.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:26 PM]
  • 10. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s03.html Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 3/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetIn Adamss version, Jackson sought to defend Americans from "all the runaway negroes, all the savageIndians, all the pirates, and all the traitors to their country" who were mobilized by the British to "wagean exterminating war" against these innocents -- a mélange of "half-truths, falsehoods, and powerfulrhetoric," Weeks shows. In reality, the aim of Jacksons "bloodthirsty tactics" and aggression in violationof the Constitution was to conquer the Spanish-held territory and exterminate runaway slaves and Indianswho had sought to escape the savagery of the colonists -- "mingled hordes of lawless Indians andnegroes" who were waging "savage, servile, exterminating war against the United States," in the rhetoricthat impressed Jefferson and modern scholars. Two innocent Englishmen were executed by theconquerors for conspiring to incite the savages, an act that Adams commended for its "salutary efficacyfor terror and example." The story ended 20 years later, Weeks continues, with the "second war ofextermination against" the Seminoles, "in which the remaining members of the tribe either moved westor were killed or forced to take refuge in the dense swamps of Florida," surviving today "in the nationalconsciousness as the mascot of Florida State University." If the Nazis had been victorious, perhaps Jewsand Gypsies would survive as mascots of the Universities of Munich and Freiburg.6"In defending Jackson," Weeks writes, "Adams was implicitly defending Indian removal, slavery, andthe use of military force without congressional approval," establishing an important precedent that holdsuntil today, in the last case.Extermination of the lesser breeds with utter respect for the laws of humanity is a pervasive feature of theEuropean conquest. Massacre of people who are utterly defenseless is considered a particular mark ofheroism, as we saw again during the 1991 Gulf slaughter. A concomitant is the standard phrase "hero ofX," referring to the manager who sat shuffling papers in some quiet room while his minions werefighting the battle of X, slogging through jungles and deserts, trying to escape enemy fire, or, preferably,raining death and destruction from afar. Murder of infants by starvation and disease through economicwarfare, a US specialty for many years, is considered less meritorious, therefore concealed by thedoctrinal institutions.The ability to churn out self-acclaim for unspeakable atrocities is highly regarded, virtually an entryticket to the ranks of the respectable intellectual culture. The practices are routine, unnoticed, like the airwe breathe. It is, for example, hardly likely that the producers of the evening news cringe inembarrassment as they present George Bush in his farewell address, wiping away a tear as he recalled theUS troops who reached out in sympathy to pleading Iraqi soldiers, thinking perhaps of the "turkey shoot"on the Basra highway or the B-52 attacks on conscripts hiding in the sand -- or the Shiite and Kurdishcivilians left to the tender mercies of Saddam Hussein as Bush returned to support for his old friend inthe interests of "stability" a few weeks later, with nods of sober approval in news and commentary. Andnone would be so rude as to raise a question about the thousands of children dying as Bush and Saddam http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s03.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:28 PM]
  • 11. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s03.htmlplayed their little games.7A related task is to reshape history so as to demonstrate the nobility of our intentions and the lofty idealsthat guide us as we bring "dreadful misfortunes" to those lucky enough to fall under our sway. The morehard-headed warn that we should not "revert to form" with the Cold War ended, "granting idealism a nearexclusive hold on our foreign policy" as we slip back unthinkingly to our role of world benefactor whileignoring "the national interest"; the world is too harsh a place for us to be guided solely by the"Wilsonian idealism" that has so long lighted our path (New York Times chief diplomatic correspondentThomas Friedman, quoting a high official with approval). This sage counsel also has deep roots. As thecountry celebrated an earlier victory in 1783, a committee warned Congress not to go to excess in"gratify[ing] their better feelings in acts of humanity"; "generosity becomes bankrupt and frustrates itsown designs by prodigal bounty," the committee explained as it recommended the further robbery ofIndian lands.8 The reverential awe over our humanitarian intervention in Indochina, which would fillmany volumes, has also been accompanied by regular warning that our generosity might be excessive,possibly harmful to the "national interest."Falsification of the historical record, often reaching quite impressive levels, can persist for manycenturies, as illustrated by the fate of those who faced "the savage injustice of the Europeans" from theearly years of the conquest. It was not until the cultural revival of the 1960s that it became possible toconfront some of the realities, even in scholarship, apart from rare and largely ignored exceptions.It would not be fair to imply that the regular fabrication of useful history passes entirely unnoticed. Inmid-1992, the New York Times Book Review devoted an essay to this abomination, with a lead headlinerunning across the top of the front page reading: "You Cant Murder History." The thought was jarring, toput it mildly, as the quincentenary approached, with its ample evidence that history can be murdered withthe same "singular felicity" as people; the Times archives alone provide an instructive record. No needfor concern, however. The essay kept to a proper topic: the murder of history in "the old Soviet Union,"where history "was like cancer in the human body, an invisible presence whose existence is bravelydenied but against which every conceivable weapon is mobilized." The author recalls "those all-powerfulSoviet officials whose job it was to suppress the publics memory of this grisly episode" of the murder ofthe Czar and his family, but who, in the end, "could not hold back the tide."9Unfortunate commissars, whose power base had collapsed. Go to the next segment.6 Ibid., ch. 5.7 For numerous examples, see TTT, chapter 3.9, and 501, chapters 1, 9, among many other sources. The http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s03.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:28 PM]
  • 12. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s03.htmlBush spectacle was presented with proper awe on network TV (Peter Jennings, ABC 7PM, Jan. 5), butkept from the Newspaper of Record (NYT, Jan. 6, 1993). To plumb the depths, however, one must lookelsewhere, for example, to the gushing tribute to colonialist atrocities ("colonialism is an act ofgenerosity and idealism of which only rising civilizations are capable," etc.) by Angelo Codevilla ofStanford Universitys Hoover Institute (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 7, 1993). For similar effusions in theBritish press, see my Raymond Williams memorial lecture, London, Nov. 1992. In a seminar at MIT, USCensus Bureau specialist Beth Daponte estimated 111,000 civilian casualties from the effects of the Gulfwar (AP, AFP, Age, Australia, Sept. 10, 1992). In Figaro (Paris), Claude Lorieux reports from Iraq thatthe worst suffering from the embargo is among the Shiites in the South, citing UNICEF figures (WorldPress Review, Jan. 1993). A Harvard Study Team estimated that 50,000 children died in the first eightmonths of 1991, many from the effects of radioactive artillery shells (Eric Hoskins, op ed, NYT, Jan. 21,1993, a rare mention of the ongoing disaster).8 Friedman, NYT, Jan. 12, 1992; Horsman, Expansion, 15f.9 Frederick Starr, NYT Book Review, July 19, 1992. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s03.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:28 PM]
  • 13. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s04.html Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 4/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet2. The Deeper RootsThe review of the planning record that follows might be faulted for keeping too close to the surface,ignoring the deeper roots of policy. That is fair enough. Policy flows from institutions, reflecting theneeds of power and privilege within them, and can be understood only if these factors are recognized,including the case now under examination.Every age of human history, Adam Smith argued with some justice, reveals the workings of "the vilemaxim of the masters of mankind": "All for ourselves, and nothing for other People." The "masters ofmankind" in the half-millenium of the European conquest included Europes merchant-warriors, theindustrialists and financiers who followed in their path, the supranational corporations and financialinstitutions that are creating what the business press now calls a "new imperial age," and the variousforms of state power that have been mobilized in their interests. The process continues today as newgoverning forms coalesce to serve the needs of the masters in a "de facto world government": the IMF,World Bank, G-7, GATT and other executive agreements.10Institutional structures guided by the vile maxim tend naturally towards two-tiered societies: the masterswith their agents, and the rabble who either serve them or are superfluous. State power commonlyperpetuates these distinctions, a fact stressed again by Adam Smith, who condemned mercantilism andcolonialism as harmful to the people of England generally, but of great benefit to the "merchants andmanufacturers" who were the "principal architects" of policy. State policy often incurs great social costs,but with rare exceptions, the interests of the "principal architects" are "most peculiarly attended to," as inthis case. The lesson holds as we move on to the modern era, often applying, in an internationalizedeconomy, even after military defeat. Consider, for example, how the interests of the Nazi collaborators inthe corporate and financial worlds were "most peculiarly attended to" as the US occupation restored themto their proper place.11In the "new imperial age," trade is increasingly becoming a form of centrally-managed interchange,guided by a highly "visible hand" within particular Transnational Corporations, phenomena of greatimportance in themselves, which also bear on the ideological trappings. World Bank economists HermanDaly and Robert Goodland point out that in prevailing economic theory, "firms are islands of centralplanning in a sea of market relationships." "As the islands get bigger," they add, "there is really no reasonto claim victory for the market principle" -- particularly as the islands approach the scale of the sea,which departs radically from free market principles, and always has, because the powerful will notsubmit to these destructive rules.12The current phase of the global conquest is described with various euphemisms: the world is divided into http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s04.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:30 PM]
  • 14. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s04.html"North and South," "developed and developing societies." Meanwhile, the basic contours remain, evenbecoming clearer as the gap between masters and victims increases, sharply in recent years. Within therich societies, the effect has been most notable in the US, UK, and Australia, the three countries thatflirted (in limited ways) with the neoliberal doctrines they preach, with predictably damaging results.Internationally, the gap -- better, the chasm -- has doubled since 1960 in the course of a majorcatastrophe of capitalism that swept over much of the traditional colonial domains, apart from theperiphery of Japan, where standard economic doctrines are not taken seriously and the state was powerfulenough to control capital as well as labor. In significant measure, the deterioration of conditions in theSouth is attributable to the neoliberal policies imposed by the de facto world government while theindustrial world pursued the opposite path, becoming increasingly protectionist (notably ReaganiteAmerica) in tandem with free market bombast.13Neoliberal theology, to be sure, gets a good press in the Third World. It is highly popular among eliteswho stand to benefit by policies that enrich them while the general population sink into misery anddespair, but dont write articles about their fate. Western ideologues may therefore speak of the grandvictory of the doctrines we uphold (for others, rejecting them for ourselves at will).These processes sometimes yield cheerful macroeconomic statistics, in which case the result is hailed as"an economic miracle": Brazil under the neo-Nazi Generals who took power with the help of the JFK-LBJ administrations is a well-known case. Meanwhile, as the Third World model extends to the richindustrial world, we observe again Smiths lesson at work: wealth accrues to the wealthy and the businesspress ponders what it calls "The Paradox of 92: Weak Economy, Strong Profits." Go to the next segment.10 James Morgan, lead article, Weekend FT, Financial Times (London), April 25/26, 1992.11 See Simpson, Splendid, for a comprehensive review for Germany. On the parallel accomplishmentselsewhere, see DD, ch. 10.12Daly and Goodland, "An Ecological Economic Assessment of Deregulation of InternationalCommerce Under GATT," Draft, Environment Department, World Bank, 1992.13 In addition to references of note 1, see Edward Herman, "Doublespeak," Z magazine, Nov. 1992, andmy "`Mandate for Change, or Business as Usual," Z, Feb. 1993. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s04.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:30 PM]
  • 15. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [5/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 5/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetSmiths lesson applies directly to the Indochina wars. These are commonly described as an Americandefeat, a classic case of costly overreach. At the dissident extreme of scholarship and media commentary,well after the corporate world called for the enterprise to be liquidated as too costly, the Vietnam warwas finally perceived as a "disaster" that arose "mainly through an excess of righteousness anddisinterested benevolence" (John King Fairbank) and "blundering efforts to do good" (Anthony Lewis);hawks took a harsher line, accusing the peace movement, the media, and other criminals of turning whatall regard as a "noble cause" into a costly failure.The costs were real, including the incalculable cost of tens of thousands of American soldiers killed. Buta realistic assessment requires the perspective of class analysis that Smith took for granted, as does thebusiness press today, if without his clear-eyed frankness. In 1973, the editor of the Far EasternEconomic Review described the US war as a success, which had "won time for Southeast Asia, allowingneighboring countries to build up their economies and their sense of identity to a degree of stabilitywhich has equipped them to counter subversion, to provide a more attractive alternative to the peasantthan the promises of the terrorist who steals down from the hills or from the jungles at night," so that theregion is becoming one of the worlds great opportunities for enrichment by "American businessmen"and their Japanese and European counterparts.Particularly encouraging to such more realistic observers was the "boiling bloodbath" in Indonesia, asTime magazine enthusiastically termed it, which littered the country with hundreds of thousands ofcorpses, mostly landless peasants, eliminating the only mass-based political party and opening the richesof Indonesia to Western plunder. This "gleam of light in Asia" (James Reston, New York Times) evokedunrestrained euphoria in the West and much acclaim for the firm US stand in Vietnam, whichencouraged the Generals and provided a "shield" to protect them as they carried out their grim ifnecessary work. Only a shade less gratifying was the military coup that established the rule of the torturerand killer Marcos in the Philippines, and similar achievements in Thailand and elsewhere, "providing amore attractive alternative" -- to investors, if not to the peasant -- than the social and economicdevelopment that was feared in an independent Vietnam.14The US achieved its basic goals in Indochina, though not the maximal goal of duplicating such triumphsas Indonesia. The years that followed have solidified the accomplishment, in a manner to which wereturn. Coming back to Smiths lesson, though this particular episode of "the savage injustice of theEuropeans" may have been costly for the population of the United States, the interests of the "principalarchitects" of policy were, once again, "most peculiarly attended to."Throughout history, the rabble have sought more freedom and justice, and have often won improvedconditions of life. The "men of best quality" have been less than delighted with these developments. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s05.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:32 PM]
  • 16. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [5/17]There has been broad agreement among them that the rabble should not be permitted to interfere in themanagement of public affairs: they should be spectators, not participants, as modern democratic theoryholds, kept in line with "necessary illusions" and "emotionally potent oversimplifications" (ReinholdNiebuhr, expressing standard views). As the rabble have gained political and civil rights, it becomesincreasingly difficult to control them by force; accordingly, it is necessary to control their thought, toisolate them, to undermine popular organizations (unions, etc.) that might provide ways for people withlimited resources to enter in a meaningful way into the political arena. In the United States, thesemeasures have been refined to an unusual degree as a highly class-conscious corporate sector has soughtto "control the public mind" in perhaps the worlds most free society. The emerging de facto worldgovernment offers new means to achieve the long-sought ideal of depriving democratic structures of anysubstantive meaning. Its decision-making apparatus is largely immune from public interference, evenawareness."Stability" at home requires that elite elements be indoctrinated with proper beliefs while the rabble aredispersed and marginalized, and fed their necessary illusions in simplified form. A significantdevelopment of the past 30 years has been the failure of the doctrinal institutions to achieve these ends.Control of the rabble can be expected to become an ever more serious problem as the Third World modelextends at home. Go to the next segment.14See FRS, ch. 1.V (reprinted in Peck, Chomsky Reader). 501, ch. 5, on the reaction to the 1965Indonesia bloodbath. See PEHR, vol. I, on the general pattern. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s05.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:32 PM]
  • 17. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [6/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 6/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet3. Keeping on CourseOur "excess of righteousness and disinterested benevolence" in Vietnam is commonly attributed to theCold War, the felt need "to resist every hint of Soviet expansion wherever it occurred, even in areas thatwere not vital to our interests," in the phrase that has grown stale through overuse.15 The doctrine is notwholly false, but must be translated from Newspeak to English. The term "Soviet expansion" servedthroughout the Cold War as a cover for policy initiatives that could not be justified, whatever their actualgrounds.The Indochina wars provide a revealing illustration of the general practice. On deciding in 1950 tosupport Frances effort to quell the threat of independent nationalism in Vietnam, Washington assigned tothe intelligence services the task of demonstrating that Ho Chi Minh was a puppet of Moscow or Peiping(either would do). Despite diligent efforts, the task proved hopeless. Evidence of "Kremlin-directedconspiracy" could be found "in virtually all countries except Vietnam," which appeared to be "ananomaly." Nor could links with China be detected. But all was not lost. Analysts concluded that Moscowconsiders the Viet Minh "sufficiently loyal to be trusted to determine their day-to-day policy withoutsupervision." Soviet expansion is thereby established, and the formula is available to every sobercommentator -- though in retrospect, it is permissible to say that the fears were exaggerated. One of thefew really surprising disclosures in the Pentagon Papers was that in an intelligence record of 25 years,the analysts could find only one paper -- a staff paper not submitted -- that even raised the questionwhether Hanoi was pursuing its national interests, not following the orders of its foreign masters. Onecan scarcely exaggerate the effectiveness of doctrinal need in enforcing a kind of institutional stupidity.16The actual reasons for terror and subversion, and finally aggression, derive from the basic logic of North-South relations, developed with unusual explicitness in the early postwar period. Recognizing that theyheld unprecedented power, US planners undertook to organize the world in the interests of the masters,"assum[ing], out of self-interest, responsibility for the welfare of the world capitalist system," as the chiefhistorian of the CIA, Gerald Haines, puts the matter in a highly-regarded study of US policy in LatinAmerica. Each region of the South was assigned its proper place. Latin America was to be taken over bythe United States, its rivals Britain and France excluded. Policy there, Haines explains, was designed "todevelop larger and more efficient sources of supply for the American economy, as well as createexpanded markets for U.S. exports and expanded opportunities for the investment of American capital," a"neocolonial, neomercantilist policy" that permitted local development only "as long as it did notinterfere with American profits and dominance." The Monroe Doctrine was also effectively extended tothe Middle East, where the huge oil resources, and crucially the enormous profits they generated, were tobe controlled by the US and its British client, operating behind an "Arab Façade" of pliant familydictatorships. As explained by George Kennan and his State Department Policy Planning Staff, Africa http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s06.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:35 PM]
  • 18. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [6/17]was to be "exploited" for the reconstruction of Europe, while Southeast Asia would "fulfill its majorfunction as a source of raw materials for Japan and Western Europe," helping them to overcome the"dollar gap" so that they would be able to purchase US manufacturing exports and provide lucrativeopportunities for US investors.In short, the Third World was to be kept in its traditional service role, providing cheap labor andresources, markets, investment opportunities, and other amenities for the masters, with local elitespermitted to share in the plunder as long as they cooperate. By the same logic, the major threat to USinterests was always recognized to be "radical and nationalistic regimes" that are responsive to popularpressures for "immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses" and development fordomestic needs. Such "ultranationalism" is unacceptable, irrespective of its political coloration, becauseit conflicts with the demand for "a political and economic climate conducive to private investment," withadequate repatriation of profits and "protection of our raw materials."An "ultranationalist" regime becomes an even greater threat if it appears to be succeeding in ways thatmight be meaningful to other poor and oppressed people. In that case it is a "virus" that might "infect"others, a "rotten apple" that might "spoil the barrel." It is a threat to "stability," that is, to unhamperedpursuit of the vile maxim. A virus must be destroyed, and surrounding regions inoculated to ensure thatthe disease does not spread. That may require measures of extreme savagery, which are, accordingly,acceptable or even admirable. The joyous reaction to the "boiling bloodbath" as General Suharto tookpower in Indonesia in 1965 is a dramatic illustration; the self-acclaim for the bloodbath that the USorchestrated in Central America in the 1980s is another. Examples are all too easy to find. North-Southrelations, and their ideological cover, quite regularly fall into this pattern.The Indochina wars are no exception. From the outset, it was understood that "Communist Ho Chi Minhis the strongest and perhaps the ablest figure in Indochina and that any suggested solution which excludeshim is an expedient of uncertain outcome" (State Department, 1948). At no point did US planners deludethemselves that they had been able to concoct an alternative to Communist-led Vietnamese nationalism;the possibility of a "third force" in the South dismayed them no less, since it too would be independent.Nationalist appeal aside, intelligence warned in 1959 that the US client state in the South could notcompete economically with the Hanoi regime, where economic growth was faster and would continue tobe, because "the national effort is concentrated on building for the future," not enriching the inheritors ofthe colonialist legacy. The more general problem was the "ideological threat" of Communism: "thepossibility that the Chinese Communists can prove to Asians by progress in China that Communistmethods are better and faster than democratic methods," as Kennedy adviser Walt Rostow put it.Adopting this conventional viewpoint, the State Department recommended that the US try to retard theeconomic development of the Communist Asian states.17In Indochina, the only way to create deprivation and suffering in the North and protect the US client inthe South from "the assault from the inside," as Kennedy termed the resistance to his aggression, was toincrease violence. Our "blundering efforts to do good" could take no other course, given thecircumstances. And as always, the same logic dictated the support for murderous terror states elsewherein the region, to protect them from the virus. These are standard features of North-South relations, http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s06.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:35 PM]
  • 19. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [6/17]exhibited with unusual clarity in the case of Indochina, but rated X, unacceptable for a general audience. Go to the next segment.15 Lars Erik Nelson, "Bushs wise counsel on the use of force," Boston Globe, Jan. 9, 1993.16 For details, see FRS, ch. 1. V (Peck, op. cit.).17 Ibid. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s06.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:35 PM]
  • 20. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [7/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 7/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetExtremes of state terror are commonly necessary "to destroy permanently a perceived threat to theexisting structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the numericalmajority...," in the words of the leading academic specialist on human rights in Latin America, LarsSchoultz, describing the goals of the neo-Nazi National Security States that had their roots in KennedyAdministration policies designed to prevent the Cuban rot from spreading. The US client regime in SouthVietnam was driven to the same course.Despite their best efforts, responsible intellectuals often find it difficult to conceal US governmentsupport for these measures. That is a problem, because US leaders are benign, humane, committed todemocracy and freedom and human rights, and otherwise saintly in disposition, by doctrinal fiat. Whentheir dedication to savage atrocities is revealed too clearly, new devices are needed to resolve thecontradiction between truth and Higher Truth. One technique is the doctrine of "change of course." Yes,bad things have happened as we departed from our noble course for unfortunate though understandablereasons; but now it is all past, we can forget history, and march forward proudly to a grand future. Thosewho cannot manage such routines with a straight face would do well to put aside any thought of a careeras a respectable commentator on affairs.The current variant of this standard device is to attribute the crimes committed by the US and its clientsto the Cold War. With virtue victorious at last, we can now return to our humanitarian mission ofbringing peace, joy, and plenty to suffering people everywhere. We can garb ourselves again in themantle of "Wilsonian idealism," though bearing in mind that its a tough world, with many villains readyto assault us if we do not keep up our guard.To select an example at random, after Indonesia committed the error of carrying out a massacre in frontof TV cameras and brutally beating two US journalists in Dili, East Timor, in November 1991, theeditors of the Washington Post, to their credit, suggested that the US "should be able to bring itsinfluence to bear on this issue," noting that for 16 years Washington had been supporting an Indonesianinvasion and forced annexation that had killed "up to a third of the population." The reasons, the Postexplained, is that "the American government was in the throes of its Vietnam agony, unprepared to exertitself for a cause" that could harm relations "with its sturdy anti-Communist ally in Jakarta. But that wasthen. Today, with the East-West conflict gone, almost everyone is readier to consider legitimate calls forself-determination."18The relation of Indonesias invasion to the East-West conflict was a flat zero. Unexplained is why, in thethroes of its Vietnam agony, the US found it necessary to increase the flow of weapons to its Indonesianclient at the time of the 1975 invasion, and to render the UN "utterly ineffective in whatever measures itundertook" to counter the aggression, as UN Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan proudly described his http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s07.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:37 PM]
  • 21. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [7/17]success in following State Department orders. Or why the Carter Administration felt obligated to sharplyaccelerate the arms flow in 1978 when Indonesian supplies were becoming depleted and the slaughterwas reaching truly genocidal proportions. Or why the Free Press felt that duty required that it reduce itscoverage of these events as the slaughter mounted, reaching zero as it peaked in 1978, completelyignoring easily accessible refugees, respected Church sources, human rights groups, and specialists onthe topic, in favor of Indonesian Generals and State Department prevaricators. Or why today it refuses totell us about the rush of Western oil companies to join Indonesia in the plunder of Timorese oil. All isexplained by the Cold War, now behind us, so that we may dismiss past errors to the memory hole andreturn to the path of righteousness.Absurdity aside, the thesis is instantly refuted by a look at what came before the Cold War and whatimmediately followed it; no change in the willingness to resort to repression, subversion, violence, andterror is detectable from Woodrow Wilson and his predecessors through the Cold War and beyond. Thehistorical record, however, has no bearing on Higher Truths. The thesis stands, whatever the facts; suchis the way with doctrinal necessity.More interestingly, the thesis mistakes the nature of the Cold War, another topic that merits at least abrief look, given its importance for understanding the events of this 70-year period -- including theIndochina wars from 1945 until today -- and the doctrinal framework that is designed to provide themwith an acceptable cast. Go to the next segment.18 Editorial, WP, Nov. 20, 1991. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s07.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:37 PM]
  • 22. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s08.html Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 8/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet4. The Kremlin ConspiracyIn no small measure, the Cold War itself can be understood as a phase of the "North-Southconfrontation," so unusual in scale that it took on a life of its own, but grounded in the familiar logic.Eastern Europe was the original "Third World," diverging from the West along a fault line runningthrough Germany even before the Columbian era, the West beginning to develop, the East becoming itsservice area. By the early 20th century, much of the region was a quasi-colonial dependency of the West.The Bolshevik takeover in 1917 was immediately recognized to be "ultranationalist," henceunacceptable. Furthermore, it was a "virus," with substantial appeal in the Third World.The Western invasion of the Soviet Union was therefore justified in defense against "the Revolutionschallenge...to the very survival of the capitalist order," the leading diplomatic historian John LewisGaddis comments today, reiterating the basic position of US diplomacy of the 1920s: "The fundamentalobstacle" to recognition of the USSR, the chief of the Eastern European Division of the State Departmentheld, "is the world revolutionary aims and practices of the rulers of that country." These "practices," ofcourse, did not involve literal aggression; rather, interfering with Western designs, which is tantamountto aggression. The Kremlin conspiracy to take over the world was therefore established, a recordreplayed in later years as other ultranationalists and viruses were assigned to the category of "Sovietexpansion."The industrial West was also thought to be susceptible to the plague. The Bolsheviks sought to make the"ignorant and incapable mass of humanity dominant in the earth," Woodrow Wilsons Secretary of StateRobert Lansing warned. They were appealing "to the proletariat of all countries, to the ignorant andmentally deficient, who by their numbers are urged to become masters, ...a very real danger in view ofthe process of social unrest throughout the world." When soldiers and workers councils made a briefappearance in Germany, Wilson feared that they would inspire dangerous thoughts among "the Americannegro [soldiers] returning from abroad." Already, he had heard, negro laundresses were demanding morethan the going wage, saying that "money is as much mine as it is yours." Businessmen might have toadjust to having workers on their boards of directors, he feared, among other disasters, if the Bolshevikvirus were not exterminated.It was therefore necessary to defend the West from "the Revolutions challenge" at home as well. AsLansing explained, force must be used to prevent "the leaders of Bolshevism and anarchy" fromproceeding to "organize or preach against government in the United States." The repression launched bythe Wilson Administration successfully undermined democratic politics, unions, freedom of the press,and independent thought, safeguarding business interests and their control over state power. The story http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s08.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:39 PM]
  • 23. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s08.htmlwas re-enacted after World War II, again under the pretext of the Kremlin conspiracy.According to the official version, it was Soviet crimes that aroused Western antagonism. In his scholarlyhistory of Soviet-American relations, George Kennan writes that the dissolution of the ConstituentAssembly in January 1918 created the breach with the Western world with "an element of finality."British Ambassador to Petrograd Sir George Buchanan was "deeply shocked," Kennan writes, andadvocated armed intervention to punish the crime. The idealistic Woodrow Wilson was particularlydistraught, reflecting the "strong attachment to constitutionality" of the American public, deeply offendedby the sight of a government with no mandate beyond "the bayonets of the Red Guard."19A few months later, Wilsons army dissolved the National Assembly in occupied Haiti "by genuinelyMarine Corps methods," in the words of Marine commander Major Smedley Butler. The reason was thatthe Haitian legislature refused to ratify a Constitution imposed by the invaders that gave them the right tobuy up Haitis lands. A Marine-run plebiscite remedied the problem: under Washingtons guns, the US-designed Constitution was ratified by a mere 99.9 percent majority, with 5 percent of the populationparticipating. Wilsons "strong attachment to constitutionality" was unmoved by the sight of agovernment with no mandate beyond "the bayonets of the Marine occupiers"; nor Kennans. Quite thecontrary. To this day the events figure in the amusing reconstructions entitled "history" as an illustrationof US "humanitarian intervention," and its difficulties (for us). Gone from "history" along with thisepisode is the restoration of virtual slavery, Marine Corps massacres and terror, the dismantling of theconstitutional system, and the takeover of Haiti by US corporations, much as in the neighboringDominican Republic, where Wilsons invading armies were only a shade less destructive, perhapsbecause their racist barbarism did not reach such extreme levels when confronting "spics" instead of"niggers." Go to the next segment.19 Kennan, Russia, 352 63. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s08.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:39 PM]
  • 24. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s09.html Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 9/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetAccordingly, Wilson is revered as a great moral teacher and the apostle of self-determination andfreedom, and we may now consider returning to the heady days of Wilsonian idealism. The Bolsheviks,in contrast, had so violated our high ideals that they had to be overthrown by force.Following the same high principles, the US enthusiastically welcomed the "fine young revolution"carried out by Benito Mussolini in Italy in 1922, as the American Ambassador described the impositionof Fascism. Well into the 1930s, Mussolini was that "admirable Italian gentleman," in the words of theman who (falsely) took credit for the Constitution imposed upon Haiti, President Franklin DelanoRoosevelt. Fascist atrocities were acceptable because they blocked the threat of a second Russia, theState Department explained. Hitler was supported as a "moderate" for the same reason. In 1937, the StateDepartment saw fascism as compatible with US economic interests, and also the natural reaction of "therich and middle classes, in self-defense" when the "dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russianrevolution before them, swing to the Left." Fascism therefore "must succeed or the masses, this timereinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the left." US diplomat William Bullitt(Kennans mentor), leaving his post as Ambassador to Moscow in 1936, "believed that only NaziGermany could stay the advance of Soviet Bolshevism into Europe," Daniel Yergin observes -- not, ofcourse, by conquest. The US business world grasped the point. Major US corporations were heavilyinvolved in German war production, sometimes enriching themselves (notably, the Ford motor company)by joining in the plunder of Jewish assets under Hitlers Aryanization program. "U.S. investment inGermany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power," Christopher Simpson writes, increasing "bysome 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940, while declining sharply everywhere else in continentalEurope" and barely holding steady in Britain.Similar conceptions are currently being revived by right-wing German historians, who argue that Hitlersinvasion of Russia may be regarded as "objectively a preventive war," since "a group of people, whethera class or a Volk, that is threatened with annihilation by another group, defends itself and has afundamental right to defend itself"; "Hitler had good reasons to be convinced of the determination of hisenemies [the Bolsheviks and the Jews] to annihilate him" (Ernst Nolte). Parts of this picture may wellbecome the accepted doctrine of the future, given its utility for power interests, though presumably wewill not return to the mid-1930s, when Bullitt attributed diplomatic problems to the fact that the RussianForeign Office "has been purged recently of all its non-Jewish members, and it is perhaps only naturalthat we should find the members of that race more difficult to deal with than the Russians themselves," inparticular a "wretched little kike" whose influence he deplored. We may also anticipate furtherreconsideration of the failure to follow through on the opportunities for a separate peace with Hitler thatwould have left the Germans and the Russians to slaughter one another, with the US and Britain standingback until it came time to pick up the pieces.20 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s09.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:41 PM]
  • 25. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s09.htmlAs Gaddis and other serious historians recognize, the Cold War began in 1917, not 1945. Whatever onebelieves about the post-World War II period, no one regarded the USSR as a military threat in earlieryears, though it was agreed that the virus had to be contained and if possible destroyed -- much the samepolicies adopted at once after World War II. By then, the "rotten apple" had grown to include EasternEurope, undermining Western access to traditional resources. Its ability "to spoil the barrel" had alsoincreased, again, not only in the South. The Communists are able to "appeal directly to the masses,"President Eisenhower complained. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, deplored the Communist"ability to get control of mass movements," "something we have no capacity to duplicate." "The poorpeople are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich." In July 1945, amajor study of the State and War Departments warned of "a rising tide all over the world wherein thecommon man aspires to higher and wider horizons." Russias "actions in the past few years give us noassured bases for supposing she has not flirted with the thought" of expanding "her influence over theearth" by associating with these dangerous currents. Russia "has not yet proven that she is entirelywithout expansionist ambitions" of this kind.Furthermore, the USSR had now become a major military force. While planners never expected anunprovoked Soviet attack, they were concerned that the USSR might react to the reconstruction of itstraditional enemies, Germany and Japan, as part of a hostile military alliance that constituted a severesecurity threat, Western analysts recognized. That aside, Soviet power was a deterrent to the exercise offorce by the US and its allies; and for its own cynical reasons, the USSR often lent support to targets ofUS attack and subversion, thus interfering with "stability." Its very existence as a major power provided acertain space for nonalignment and a degree of independence in the Third World. Lesser "rotten apples"posed no such dangers.It should be stressed that Stalins awesome crimes were of no concern to Truman and other high officials.Truman liked and admired Stalin, and felt that he could deal with him as long as the US got its way 85percent of the time. Other leading figures agreed. As with a host of other murderers and torturers oflesser scale, the unacceptable crime is disobedience; the same is true of priests who preach "thepreferential option for the poor," secular nationalists in the Arab world, Islamic Fundamentalists,democratic socialists, or independent elements of any variety.If we can extricate ourselves from convenient mythology, the picture in Indochina comes into focus. Itwas Ho Chi Minhs "ultranationalism" that made him unacceptable, not his services to the "Kremlinconspiracy" or "Soviet expansion," except in the Orwellian sense of these terms. Go to the next segment.20DD, ch. 1.4. Simpson, Splendid, ch. 5. Yergin, Shattered Peace, 24 26. Nolte cited by ThomasSheehan, NY Review, Jan. 14, 1993. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s09.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:41 PM]
  • 26. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [10/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 10/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet5. Varieties of InfamyThe quincentenary provided many opportunities to examine "the murder of history," apart from theobvious ones. Some were taken. The 500th year opened in October 1991 with a flood of commentary onthe 50th anniversary of Japans December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. There was wonder and dismay overJapans singular unwillingness to acknowledge its guilt for "the date which will live in infamy," andsober ruminations on Japans disgraceful "self-pity" and refusal to offer reparations to its victims, its"clumsy attempts to sanitize the past," and failure to "come forward with a definitive statement ofwartime responsibility," as Tokyo correspondent Steven Weisman framed the issues in a New York TimesMagazine cover story on "Pearl Harbor in the Mind of Japan." These deliberations were carefully craftedto highlight Japans major crime: its "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor. Among the issues scrupulouslyexcised were the US attitude towards Japans horrifying rampages before the infamous date, and the greatpower interactions that lie not very deep in the background. And one would have to search diligently fora discussion of the proper rank, in the scale of atrocities, of an attack on a naval base in a US colony thathad been stolen from its inhabitants by force and guile just 50 years earlier -- another part of thebackground that slipped by virtually unnoticed, as did the centenary of the latter deed in January 1993.More remarkable still was another anniversary passed over in silence at the very same moment: thethirtieth anniversary of John F. Kennedys escalation of the US intervention in South Vietnam. Autumn1961 was a fateful moment in the history of US assault against Indochina, one of the most shameful anddestructive episodes of the 500-year conquest.On October 11, 1961, Kennedy ordered dispatch of a US Air Force Farmgate squadron to SouthVietnam, 12 planes especially equipped for counterinsurgency warfare, soon authorized "to flycoordinated missions with Vietnamese personnel in support of Vietnamese ground forces." On December16, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, whom JFK had put in charge of running the war, authorizedtheir participation in combat operations against southerners resisting the violence of the US-imposedterror state or living in villages out of government control. These were the first steps in engaging USforces directly in bombing and other combat operations in South Vietnam from 1962, along withsabotage missions in the North. These 1961-1962 actions laid the groundwork for the huge expansion ofthe war in later years, with its awesome toll.21State terror had already taken perhaps 75,000 lives in the southern sector of Vietnam since Washingtontook over the war directly in 1954. But the 1954-1961 crimes were of a different order: they belong to thecategory of crimes that Washington conducts routinely, either directly or through its agents, in its variousterror states. In the fall and winter of 1961-1962, Kennedy added the war crime of aggression to thealready sordid record, also raising the attack to new heights. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s10.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:44 PM]
  • 27. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [10/17]6. Varieties of CrimeNot all crimes are of the same order; it is worthwhile to distinguish terror from aggression, howeveracademic the distinction may seem to the victims. To illustrate, take a contemporary example, one ofthose that receives little notice and that demonstrates, once again, the utter irrelevance of theconventional Cold War pretexts served up by the murderers of history when public concern over criminalactions has to be allayed. Consider Colombia, second only to El Salvador as a recipient of US militaryaid in Latin America. The State Department Country Reports for 1990 states that "Members and units ofthe army and the police participated in a disturbing number of human rights violations includingextrajudicial executions, torture, and massacres." "Yet no security assistance has been withheld as aresult of widespread violations by aid recipients" (the security forces), Americas Watch comments. Infiscal 1991, Colombia received $27.1 million in military assistance and $20 million in police aid, alongwith $50 million in Economic Support Funds for counter-narcotics assistance -- funds commonly usedfor repression, with no drug connection, as widely reported. In March 1990, two high-ranking Colombiangenerals informed Congress that "the generals would use $38.5 million of the $40.3 million originallyappropriated for fiscal year 1990 counter-narcotics assistance for counter-insurgency support in areaswhere narcotics trafficking was nonexistent," Americas Watch notes, citing a congressional report.For fiscal year 1992, Colombia was scheduled to receive $58 million in military assistance and $20million for the police; the same amount was requested for fiscal 1993. From 1988 to 1991, US militaryaid to Colombia increased sevenfold, keeping pace with atrocities by the security forces. The 117 USmilitary advisers are more than twice the number allowed by Congress for El Salvador (whatever theactual numbers may have been). Over 3000 cases of abuse by police and military were reported fromJanuary 1990 to April 1991, according to a study by the Colombian Attorney General, including 68massacres, 560 murders, 664 cases of torture, and 616 disappearances. This is apart from the atrocitiescarried out by paramilitary groups that operate with the tolerance of the government, if not directparticipation. As usual in the US-backed terror states, the major targets are political dissidents, unionleaders, and others who seek to organize the rabble, thus interfering with the service role assigned to theSouth.22 Go to the next segment.21 FRUSV, I, 343; III, 4n. Gibbons, US Government, 70 1, citing Air Force history.22Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform in Colombia: the Violence Continues (New York,1992), citing State Department Country Reports, 1990, and House Committee on GovernmentOperations, Stopping the Flood of Cocaine with Operation Snowcap: Is it Working?, Aug. 14, 1990, pp.83 4. Jorge Gómez Lizarro, human rights activist and former Judge, "Colombian Blood, U.S. Guns," http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s10.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:44 PM]
  • 28. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [10/17]NYT, Op Ed, Jan. 28, 1992. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s10.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:44 PM]
  • 29. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [11/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 11/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThese are familiar conditions of life in US domains; Colombian state terror is beyond the norm, but otherclients are expected to act the same way when circumstances warrant, and regularly do. In the case ofColombia, the Kennedy Administration escalated the standard procedures, helping establish more firmlythe regime of state terror as part of its general program of reinforcing the apparatus of repressionthroughout Latin America.The background is discussed by Alfredo Vásquez Carrizosa, president of the Colombian PermanentCommittee for Human Rights. "Behind the façade of a constitutional regime," he observes, "we have amilitarized society under the state of siege provided" by the 1886 Constitution, which grants a wide rangeof rights, but with no relation to reality. "In this context poverty and insufficient land reform have madeColombia one of the most tragic countries of Latin America." Land reform, which "has practically been amyth," was legislated in 1961, but "has yet to be implemented, as it is opposed by landowners, who havehad the power to stop it." The result of the prevailing misery has been violence, including La Violenciaof the 1940s and 1950s, which took hundreds of thousands of lives. "This violence has been caused notby any mass indoctrination, but by the dual structure of a prosperous minority and an impoverished,excluded majority, with great differences in wealth, income, and access to political participation.""Violence has been exacerbated by external factors," Vásquez continues. "In the 1960s the United States,during the Kennedy administration, took great pains to transform our regular armies intocounterinsurgency brigades, accepting the new strategy of the death squads." These Kennedy initiatives"ushered in what is known in Latin America as the National Security Doctrine, ...not defense against anexternal enemy, but a way to make the military establishment the masters of the game... [with] the rightto combat the internal enemy, as set forth in the Brazilian doctrine, the Argentine doctrine, theUruguayan doctrine, and the Colombian doctrine: it is the right to fight and to exterminate socialworkers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive of the establishment, and who areassumed to be communist extremists. And this could mean anyone, including human rights activists suchas myself."23The president of the Colombian human rights commission is reviewing facts familiar throughout LatinAmerica. Military-controlled National Security states dedicated to "internal security" by assassination,torture, disappearance, and sometimes mass murder, constituted one of the two major legacies of theKennedy Administration to Latin America, the other being the Alliance for Progress, a statistical successand social catastrophe (apart from foreign investors and domestic elites).Under Eisenhower, the acts of the client state in South Vietnam fell within the general category of US-backed state terror. But in this case, his successor did not simply extend these measures, as he did inLatin America. Rather, Kennedy moved on to armed attack, a different category of criminal behavior. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s11.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:46 PM]
  • 30. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [11/17]The assault that followed left three countries utterly devastated with millions dead, untold numbers ofmaimed, widows and orphans, children being killed to this day by unexploded bombs, deformed fetusesin hospitals in the South -- not the North, spared the particular atrocity of chemical warfare -- and arecord of criminal savagery that would fill many a docket, by the standards of Nuremberg. By 1967, thebitterly anti-Communist French military historian and Indochina specialist Bernard Fall warned that"Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity...is threatened with extinction... [as] ...the countryside literallydies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size." After theJanuary 1968 Tet Offensive, the onslaught became even more violent, along with "secret bombing" ofLaos and later Cambodia that added hundreds of thousands of additional casualties -- "secret," becausethe media refused to find out what was happening, or to make public what they knew.The land itself was targeted for destruction, not merely the people. Extensive regions were turned intomoonscapes. The "unprecedentedly massive and sustained expenditure of herbicidal chemical warfareagents against the fields and forests of South Vietnam...resulted in large-scale devastation of crops, inwidespread and immediate damage to the inland and coastal forest ecosystems, and in a variety of healthproblems among exposed humans," American biologist Arthur Westing concluded. The effects areenduring. The director of the Center for National Resources Management and Environmental Studies atthe University of Hanoi, biologist Vo Quy, writes that the destruction of huge areas of jungle leftgrasslands in which rat populations have exploded, destroying crops and causing disease, includingbubonic plague, which spread in South Vietnam from 1965. Defoliants eliminated half the mangroveforests of the country, leaving "a solid gray scene of death," US biologist E.W. Pfeiffer observed after avisit. Drainage of regions of the Mekong Delta by the US army in counterinsurgency operations raisedthe sulphuric acid too high for crops to grow. Large areas "that were once cool, moist, temperate andfertile are now characterised by compacted, leached earth and dry, blazing climate," Vo Quy writes, after"deliberate destruction of the environment as a military tactic on a scale never seen before." To "heal thewar-scarred country" would be a huge task under the best of circumstances.24 Go to the next segment.23 Colombia Update 1.4, Dec. 1989. DD, 501, for further discussion.24 Westing, Herbicides, 22. Vo Quy, Third World Resurgence (Penang, Malaysia), No. 26, 1992. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s11.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:46 PM]
  • 31. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [12/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 12/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet7. "Crime Once Exposed..."In October 1991, President Bush celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Kennedys escalation of the war --coincidentally, opening the 500th year of the European conquest -- by intervening once again to blockEuropean and Japanese efforts to end the embargo that the US imposed in 1975 to ensure that thedesperately poor and ruined country would not recover from the "dreadful misfortunes" it had suffered.Presumably there were other reasons as well: to punish Vietnam for its failure to succumb to USviolence, to teach appropriate lessons to others who might be tempted to emulate such misbehavior,perhaps simply for revenge. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney reported to Congress that we are not yetready to grant the Vietnamese entry into the civilized world. The reason is that, like the evil Japanese, theVietnamese are still unwilling to face up to the crimes that they committed against us.The Indochina wars have not been completely erased from historical memory. From the horrifyingrecord, one issue still remains: our suffering at the hands of the Vietnamese barbarians, who, afterattacking us in South Vietnam when we were nobly defending it from its population, compounded theircrimes by refusing to dedicate themselves with sufficient zeal to accounting for the remains of theAmerican pilots they had viciously blasted from the skies over Vietnam and Laos. "Substantial progress"on the MIA issue is required as a condition for our normalizing ties with Vietnam, Secretary of StateJames Baker announced, a process that could take several years. "Despite improved cooperation," theVietnamese have a long way to go before we end the embargo that has been strangling them, deterringaid and investment from other countries reluctant to step on the toes of the Godfather and blockingassistance from international lending organizations, where the US wields an effective veto.The message has resounded in a drumbeat of articles and opinion pieces, with scarcely a departure fromdoctrinal rigor. For years, the Free Press has been reporting US outrage over the deceitful Vietnamesewho evade their responsibility for their crimes against us, without a hint that something may be amiss.Not only do we retain the abilities that so impressed de Tocqueville, destroying people with absolute"respect for the laws of humanity," but we have progressed well beyond, converting our tortured victimsinto our torturers.Admittedly, this is no innovation; rather, historical practice that goes back to the days when the authorsof the Declaration of Independence denounced the "merciless Indian savages" whom they wereexterminating and expelling, an act quite readily absorbed into the official culture of self-congratulation.We learn much by recalling the traditional principle that "Crime once exposed had no refuge but inaudacity."As noted earlier, that principle may have been in John Quincy Adamss mind when he established the http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s12.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:48 PM]
  • 32. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [12/17]doctrine of executive war that was again implemented in Vietnam. In fact, Adams went a step beyond theportrayal of extermination as self-defense against "mingled hordes of lawless Indians and negroes." Heknew that Jackson was "a barbarian," as he privately called him, and that aggression was aggression. Ashis later confessions reveal, he also knew just who was fighting an "exterminating war." But he alsoknew that the US had the guns; and, following the principle enunciated by his favorite historian,demanded that Spain pay "a just and reasonable indemnity to the United States for the heavy andnecessary expenses which they have been compelled to incur by the failure of Spain to perform herengagements to restrain the Indians."25Tacituss principle is understood by every petty crook who knows enough to shout "Thief! Thief!" whencaught with his hands in someones pocket. It is a standard propaganda ploy, commonly adopted bypowerful states to punish their victims: Frances demand that Haiti pay a huge indemnity to compensatefor its successful slave revolt is another famous example, with consequences that still endure, twocenturies later. The technique is also routine in mainstream media analysis. Adopting it, one canoverthrow mountains of evidence exposing media subservience to state and private power by a flick ofthe wrist: simply ignore the evidence, and ask whether the crusading media have gone too far in theiradversarial stance, perhaps even threatening the democratic process in their extreme anti-establishmentbias.26Nevertheless, in the history of state violence and intellectual perfidy, it is doubtful that one can find anexample of inversion of guilt that compares with the case of the US wars in Indochina.Anyone with a lingering belief that even a wisp of principle or human concern might animate theideological managers intent on arousing furor over the MIAs can readily overcome that delusion byconsidering two crucial facts. The first is the complete lack of interest in the vastly greater number ofMIAs from earlier wars, whose remains are found accidentally to this day in European battlegrounds andeven Canada (from the US invasion in 1812), areas where no one has ever hindered any search. Thesecond decisive fact is the history of the POW/MIA campaign. It was carefully orchestrated to overcomerising public concern about US atrocities that could no longer be suppressed -- the Tacitus principle --and to derail negotiations that Nixon and Kissinger sought to evade. After 1975, the issue was exploitedas a device to continue the war by other means.The revival of the issue in the late 1980s was an entirely predictable consequence of Vietnamswithdrawal from Cambodia. Its December 1979 invasion after murderous Khmer Rouge attacks onVietnamese border areas, driving out Pol Pot and terminating his atrocities, was portrayed by US leadersand political commentators as a profound shock to their delicate sensibilities. Naturally these apostles ofGandhi and Martin Luther King, so devoted to international law, could react in only one way: by helpingto reconstitute the Khmer Rouge at the border, granting the Pol Pot government diplomatic recognition,and insisting on a central Khmer Rouge role in any settlement. To punish the perpetrators of this crime ofaggression, they also had to maintain the embargo that had been "bleeding Vietnam," as the Far EasternEconomic Review described the doctrine. When it was no longer possible to deny that Vietnam hadwithdrawn its troops from Cambodia in the context of the Paris Agreements, the cultural managers had to http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s12.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:48 PM]
  • 33. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [12/17]revert to the earlier pretext: the failure of the Vietnamese to open their territory and archives to ourinspection without impediment, and otherwise dedicate themselves to the sole moral issue that remainsunresolved from the war. Go to the next segment.25 Weeks, op. cit.26 For a few examples, see MC, ch. 5.5.2 and App. 3; NI, App. I.2; LL, letter 18. See p. 114 below. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s12.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:48 PM]
  • 34. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s13.html Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 13/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetMeanwhile, respectable opinion is quite untroubled by the study of the UN Transitional Authority inCambodia (UNTAC), unreported in the Free Press, which reveals that "there are indeed foreign forceswithin the meaning of the Paris Agreements operating in Cambodia, but they are from Thailand," notVietnam. Army units of this long-time US dependency "move freely in the DKZ [DemocraticKampuchea Zone, or Khmer Rouge-controlled territory] and have been accused of aiding the [KhmerRouge] militarily," UNTAC reports, while aiding Thai businessmen active in gem and timber export inareas of Cambodia controlled by the Khmer Rouge, helping to finance Khmer Rouge operations whileenriching themselves in good capitalist fashion.27We might also add a third fact: the illegal and often brutal (even murderous) treatment by the US andBritain of Italian and German POWs during and after World War II, kept secret during the war for fear ofGerman retaliation. This sorry record was exposed in the late 1970s, evoking much admiration in UScommentary right at the time when fury about the perfidious Vietnamese was being whipped to a feverpitch. But we may drop these matters; though plainly relevant, they could not possibly enter mainstreamdiscussion, or even be understood.28The embargo imposed in 1975 "had the effect intended by Washington," New York Times correspondentPhilip Shenon reports: "Malnutrition remains severe in northern and central Vietnam, and whatever thesudden wealth of many residents of Ho Chi Minh City, visitors to the city are often swarmed by familiesof homeless beggars," a vivid refutation of the claim that the US lost the war. "Vietnams war-shatteredeconomy has now only begun to recover" after 17 years in which the US "cut off not only the legalsupply of American goods but also aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and otherinternational lending agencies." "Most Vietnamese are dirt-poor now," the Far Eastern Economic Reviewreports, "but the economy is expected to boom once the embargo is dropped" and Vietnam can "becomea low-wage platform for exporters of manufactured goods" -- foreign investors, who can enefit from theUS policy of first destroying and then bleeding Vietnam. The Review reports the concern of US firmsthat rivals from other countries may beat them out. "US companies have suffered irretrievable market-share losses in Vietnam," the director of a trade and investment company complains, as competitors havebegun to break the US-imposed embargo. US firms want Washington to continue to "shut the door ofinternational financial institutions to Vietnam" to prevent any recovery until the embargo is lifted, so thatthey can gain their proper share, recognizing, as the Financial Times reports, that "Funds from the WorldBank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, currently blocked byWashington, are urgently needed" if there is to be any substantial recovery -- or profits.29Blood-lust has its merits, but money talks even louder. The embargo has plainly outlived its usefulness."The Japanese do not hide their enthusiasm for the skills and dedication -- and low wages -- of http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s13.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:50 PM]
  • 35. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s13.htmlVietnamese workers," Victor Mallet reports in the Financial Times. They are preparing to invest tobenefit from these useful consequences of the American war and postwar strangulation. But theGodfather has not lost his clout entirely: "the Japanese government and Japanese companies are stillanxious not to offend the US by undertaking high-profile projects in Vietnam," Mallet reports, and arestill "very, very cautious," a Mitsui representative adds. But they are moving forward slowly, frighteningAmerican firms."Through the 1980s, U.S. officials emphasized that Vietnam should end its occupation of Cambodiabefore the U.S. embargo could be lifted," Robert Greenberger reports in the Wall Street Journal: "AfterVietnam withdrew its troops, the U.S. then stressed the need to resolve the MIA and POW issues beforerelations could be restored," and now Washington "is under pressure from American companies toresolve the [MIA] issue so that they... [will not] ...be left behind in the race for access to Vietnamsmarkets and resources, including potentially rich offshore oil deposits." No conclusion is drawn from thistransparent charade.Like a good and loyal trooper, Steven Holmes reports in the New York Times that the BushAdministration is moving to ease the trade embargo in "response to what the Administration sees asgreater Vietnamese cooperation in the search for American servicemen still missing from the Vietnamwar." The headline reads: "Hanois Help With M.I.As Leads to Easing of Embargo." True, "business andtrade organizations have also been lobbying the Administration to loosen the embargo," fearing that"they will lose out to Japanese companies in the Vietnam market"; and they "believe that there is moremoney to be made in Vietnam in the next 10 years" than in China. But the doctrinal truths are unshaken:it is Vietnams greater willingness to face up to its crimes against us that led Mr. Bush to ease the tradeembargo, an act that "signals a clear warming toward Vietnam after decades of bitterness and distrustspawned by Hanois invasion of Cambodia, its unwillingness to be forthcoming about the fate of missingAmericans and lingering resentment toward Vietnam for having defeated the United States" -- the last, aninteresting departure from ritual.Though Administration officials "have praised Hanoi for meeting a number of the conditions set by thepresident last year," Pamela Constable reports, "to many Americans...none of these arguments carryenough weight to overcome the deep bitterness, mistrust and hostility that linger" towards "an adversarythat has delayed, deceived, and resisted legitimate US demands on the missing servicemen for years."Eager to resume ties with the US, the Vietnamese Government "is careful not to offend American visitorsby suggesting directly that the sacrifice of Vietnamese families was greater than that of families in theUnited States," Philip Shenon adds.30The drama continued through 1992. A year after he celebrated JFKs aggression by extending the USembargo, President Bush announced, in properly statesmanlike terms, that "It was a bitter conflict, butHanoi knows today that we seek only answers without the threat of retribution for the past." We cannever forgive them for what they have done to us, but "we can begin writing the last chapter of theVietnam war" if they turn from other pursuits to locating the remains of missing Americans. The adjacentfront-page story reports the visit of the Japanese Emperor to China, where he failed to "unambiguously"accept the blame "for [Japans] wartime aggression," revealing again the deep flaw in the Japanese http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s13.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:50 PM]
  • 36. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s13.htmlcharacter that so sorely puzzles American commentators.31 Go to the next segment.27Nayan Chanda, Far Eastern Economic Review, Dec. 17, 1992. A Thai intelligence report estimatesthat the projected cash flow "dwarfs the combined revenues of the three other factions, and could becomea decisive factor in the power struggle" that may restore the Thai backed Khmer Rouge to power. KenStier, FEER, Jan. 21, 1993.28 See PEHR, vol. II, 35ff.29 Shenon, NYT, Dec. 26, 1992; FEER, Jan. 7, 1993; Victor Mallet, FT, Dec. 16, 1992.30 Holmes, NYT, Dec. 15; Constable, BG, Nov 22; Shenon, Nov. 30, 1992.31 NYT, Oct. 24, 1992. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s13.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:12:50 PM]
  • 37. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [14/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 14/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet8. Stable GuidelinesThe next two chapters are devoted to the record of planning for the Vietnam war in the crucial 1961-1964period (chapter 1) and the reshaping of interpretations as conditions changed, a matter of muchindependent interest (chapter 2).There are several sources of evidence to be considered: (1) The historical facts; (2) public statements; (3)the internal planning record; (4) the memoirs and other reports of Kennedy insiders. In each category, thematerial is substantial. The record of internal deliberations, in particular, has been available far beyondthe norm since the release of two editions of the Pentagon Papers, and of other documents since. Therecent publication of thousands of pages of documents in the official State Department history for 1961-1964 provides a wealth of additional material.32 Military histories, particularly province studies, also givemuch insight into the events and what lay behind them.While history never permits anything like definitive conclusions, in this case, the richness of the record,and its consistency, permit some unusually confident judgments, in my opinion. The basic story thatemerges from the historical and documentary record seems to me, in brief, as follows.33Policy towards Vietnam fell within the general framework of post-World War II global planning, andfaced little challenge until the general framework was modified in the early 1970s, partly as aconsequence of the Indochina Wars.34 The US quickly threw in its lot with France, fully aware that it wasopposing the nationalist forces and that its clients could not withstand political competition. For thesereasons, resort to peaceful means was never an option; rather, a threat to be avoided. It was alsounderstood that the wars and subversion had little support at home. The operation therefore had to bewound up without too much delay, leaving Indochina under the control of client regimes, to the extentfeasible.Basic policies held firm from 1950 into the early 1970s, though by the end questions of feasibility andcost became pressing. The Geneva agreements of 1954 were at once subverted. The US imposed a clientregime in what came to be called "South Vietnam." Lacking popular support, the regime resorted to large-scale terror to control the population, finally eliciting resistance, which it could not control. As Kennedytook office, the US position seemed to face imminent collapse. Kennedy therefore escalated the war in1961-1962. The military command was exuberant over the success of the enhanced violence, and thoughtthat the war could soon be wound up, leading to a military victory and US withdrawal. Kennedy wentalong with these predictions with reservations, never fully willing to commit himself to the withdrawalproposals put forth by his advisers. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s14.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:53 PM]
  • 38. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [14/17]Without exception, withdrawal proposals were conditioned on military victory. Every knownAdministration plan was explicit on that score, notably the October 1963 "program to replace U.S.personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort," coupled with instructions fromthe President to "increase effectiveness of war effort" so as to ensure "our fundamental objective ofvictory" (my emphasis).By mid-1963, coercive measures appeared to be successful in the countryside, but internal repression hadevoked large-scale urban protest. Furthermore, the client regime was calling for a reduction of the USrole or even US withdrawal, and was making overtures for a peaceful settlement with the North. Given itsunwavering commitment to "our fundamental objective of victory," the Kennedy Administrationtherefore resolved to overthrow its client in favor of a military junta that would be fully committed to thisobjective. The planned coup took place on November 1, 1963, placing the Generals in control. Go to the next segment.32 PP. The Department of Defense later released an edition with additional materials. For extensivematerial from both, and discussion, see FRS. U.S. Dept. of State, FRUSV, I III; FRUSV 64 (1964 is thelatest volume released). For a brief and accurate summary of the 1963, 1964 volumes, see Economist, Jan.18, May 16, 1992. Another useful source is Gibbons, US Government.33Sources already cited, and others in the dissident literature, gave a generally accurate picture as eventsproceeded, requiring little modification in the light of what is now known. For a summary, see MC. Thefollowing summary is largely extracted from 501, ch. 10.8.34 See 501, ch. 2.4. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s14.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:53 PM]
  • 39. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [15/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 15/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetAs the US command had predicted, the coup led to further disintegration, and as the bureaucraticstructure of the former regime dissolved, to a belated recognition that reports of military progress werebuilt on sand. Furthermore, the Generals also proved unwilling to accept the US objective; Vietnameseon all sides were seeking some kind of accommodation that would avert the devastating war that wasbecoming increasingly likely if the US persisted in its demand for military victory.35After the November 1 coup, tactics were modified in light of two new factors: (1) the hope that at last astable basis had been established for expanded military action, and (2) recognition that the militarysituation in the countryside was a shambles. The first factor made escalation possible, the second made itnecessary, as the former hopes were seen to be a mirage. The plans to withdraw soon had to beabandoned as the precondition collapsed. As it became evident that US forces could not withdraw"without impairment of the war effort," the withdrawal plans explicitly based on this condition werenullified; subsequent events made it clear that US forces would in fact have to be increased to achievethe "fundamental objective of victory," which was transmitted unchanged to the Johnson Administration.By early 1965, only a large-scale US invasion could prevent a political settlement.The policy assumptions, never seriously challenged, allowed few options: the attack against SouthVietnam was sharply escalated in early 1965, and the war was extended to the North.By 1967, the military command was again beginning to see "light at the end of the tunnel," and topropose withdrawal. These hopes were dashed by the January 1968 Tet offensive, which revealed thatthe war could not be quickly won. By then, domestic protest and deterioration of the US economy vis-à-vis its industrial rivals convinced domestic elites that the US should move towards disengagement.These decisions set in motion the withdrawal of US ground forces, combined with another sharpescalation of the military assault against South Vietnam, and by then all of Indochina, in the hope that thebasic goals could still be salvaged. Negotiations continued to be deferred as long as possible, and whenthe US was finally compelled to sign a peace treaty in January 1973, Washington announced at once, inthe clearest and most explicit terms, that it would subvert the agreement in every crucial respect. That itproceeded to do, in particular, by increasing the violence in the South in violation of the treaty, withmuch domestic acclaim as the tactic appeared to be successful. The dissident press could tell the story,but the mainstream was entirely closed to such heretical truths, and still is, a ban maintained withimpressive rigor.36 These actions of the US and its client again elicited a reaction, and the client regimeagain collapsed. This time the US could not rescue it. By 1975, the war ended.As already discussed, the US achieved a partial victory, but no more than that. On the negative side, theclient regimes had fallen. But there was a silver lining: Indochina was in ruins, there was no fear that the http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s15.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:55 PM]
  • 40. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [15/17]"virus" of successful development might "infect" others, and the region was insulated from any residualdanger, by murderous military regimes. Another consequence, predictable years earlier, was that theindigenous forces in South Vietnam and Laos, unable to resist the US onslaught, had been decimated,leaving North Vietnam as the dominant force in Indochina.37 As to what might have happened had theseforces survived and the countries been allowed to develop in their own ways, one can only speculate.Servants of power are ready to offer required answers, but these are without interest, reflecting onlydoctrinal needs.Basic policy remained constant in essentials: disentanglement from an unpopular and costly venture assoon as possible, but only after the virus was destroyed and victory assured (by the 1970s, withincreasing doubt that US client regimes could be sustained). Tactics were modified with changingcircumstances and perceptions. Changes of Administration, including the Kennedy assassination, had nolarge-scale effect on policy, and not even any great effect on tactics, when account is taken of theobjective situation and how it was perceived.This seems to me to be a good first approximation to the general picture. We turn to details for the 1961-1964 period directly. Go to the next segment.35 On this matter, see particularly Kahin, Intervention.36On the complicity of the intellectual community in suppressing the readily available facts about USsubversion of diplomacy, see TCNW, ch. 3; MC, ch. 5.5.3. Parts of the story are yet untold.37 AWWA, 286. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s15.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:55 PM]
  • 41. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [16/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 16/17 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet9. The Kennedy RevivalThe forgotten anniversary of JFKs aggression was marked by more than President Bushs renewal of theembargo against Vietnam and renewed indignation over Vietnams savage maltreatment of innocentAmerica. It was also the occasion for renewed fascination with the Kennedy era, even adulation for thefallen leader who had escalated the attack against Vietnam from terror to aggression just 30 years earlier.This curious coincidence was based upon the claim, prominently advanced, that Kennedy intended towithdraw from Vietnam; and was assassinated for that reason, some alleged. The revival was spurred byOliver Stones film JFK, which reached a mass audience at that time with its message that Kennedy wassecretly planning to end the Vietnam war, a plan aborted by the assassination.The admiration for the lonely hero struck down as (and perhaps because) he sought to prevent a US warin Vietnam, and more muted variants with their associated theses, add an interesting touch to thequestions that would have arisen in a civilized society on the 30th anniversary of Kennedys war, and the500th anniversary of the conquest of which it was a particularly ugly part. Such thoughts aside, thefactual issues raised are of considerable interest, well beyond the specific matter of Indochina policy.The Kennedy revival involves disparate groups. One consists of leading intellectuals of the Kennedycircle. What is interesting in this case is not their rising to Kennedys defense, but the way they seizedupon the idea that Kennedy was planning to withdraw from Vietnam, the timing of this thesis, and thecomparison to the version of these events they had provided before the war became unpopular amongelites. Among this group, few if any credit the belief that the alleged withdrawal plans, or other plannedpolicy reversals, were a factor in the assassination.A second category includes segments of the popular movements that in large part grew from oppositionto the Vietnam war. Their attitudes toward the man who escalated the war from terror to aggression areperhaps more surprising, though it should be recalled that the picture of Kennedy as the leader who wasabout to lead us to a bright future of peace and justice was carefully nurtured during the Camelot years,with no little success, and has been regularly revived in the course of the critique of the Warren reportand the attempts to construct a different picture, which have reached and influenced a wide audience overthe years.Within both categories, some have taken the position that JFK truly departed from the political norm, andhad become (or always was) committed to far-reaching policy changes: not only was he planning towithdraw from Vietnam (the core thesis), but also to break up the CIA and the military-industrialcomplex, to end the Cold War, and otherwise to pursue directions that would indeed have been highlyunpopular in the corridors of power. Others reject these assessments, but argue that Kennedy was http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s16.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:57 PM]
  • 42. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [16/17]perceived as a dangerous reformer by right-wing elements (which is undoubtedly true, as it is true ofvirtually everyone in public life). At this point, the speculations interweave with questions and theoriesabout the assassination. Some take the position that Kennedy was assassinated by a high-level conspiracydetermined to make sure that their own man, the hawkish LBJ, would take the reins. It is then necessaryto assume further that a conspiracy of quite a remarkable character has concealed the awesome crime.There are other variants.Of all of these theories, the only ones of any general interest are those that assume a massive cover-up,and a high-level conspiracy that required that operation. In that case, the assassination was an event oftrue political significance, breaking sharply from the normal course of politics and exercise of power.Such ideas make little sense unless coupled with the thesis that JFK was undertaking radical policychanges, or perceived to be by policy insiders. Go to the next segment. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s16.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:57 PM]
  • 43. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [17/17] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Introduction: Contours and Context Segment 17/17 Previous segment |Next chapter | Contents | Archive | ZNetThe scale of the presumed conspiracy should be appreciated. There is not a phrase in the voluminousinternal record hinting at any thought of such a notion. It must be, then, that personal discipline wasextraordinary among a huge number of people, or that the entire record has been scrupulously sanitized.There has not been a single leak over thirty years, though a high-level conspiracy to assassinate Kennedyand conceal the crime would have to involve not only much of the government and the media, but a goodpart of the historical, scientific, and medical professions. An achievement so immense would be utterlywithout precedent or even remote analogue.The conviction that JFK was assassinated by a high-level conspiracy, and that the crime has since beenconcealed by a conspiracy awesome in scale, is widely held in the grassroots movements and among leftintellectuals. Indeed, it is often presented as established truth, the starting point for further discussion.38Across this broad spectrum, there is a shared belief that history changed course dramatically whenKennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Many believe that the event casts a shadow over all thatfollowed, opening an era of political illegitimacy, with the country in the hands of dark forces.Given the strong reactions that these issues have raised, perhaps it is worthwhile to make clear just whatis and is not under consideration in what follows. This discussion addresses the question of theassassination only at the policy level: is there any reason to believe that JFK broke from the generalpattern and intended to withdraw US forces from Vietnam even if that would lead to "impairment of thewar effort" and undermine the "fundamental objective of victory"? Ancillary questions arise concerningthe further beliefs about impending policy changes. These questions are addressed below.The issue of the assassination is only obliquely touched by these considerations. They imply nothingabout the thesis that JFK was killed by the mafia, or by right-wing Cubans, or other such theories. Theybear only on the thesis that Kennedy was killed in a high-level conspiracy followed by a cover-up ofremarkable dimensions. Serious proponents of such theses have recognized that credible direct evidenceis lacking, and have therefore sought indirect evidence, typically holding that JFKs plans for withdrawalfrom Vietnam (or some of the broader policy claims) provide the motive for the cabal. If serious, theclaim must be that the high-level conspirators knew something not publicly available, or had beliefsbased on such material; hence the importance of the internal planning record for advocates of suchtheses. This line of argument has been at the core of the revival of the past few years. Currently availableevidence indicates that it is entirely without foundation, indeed in conflict with substantial evidence.Advocates of the thesis will have to look elsewhere, so it appears.The available facts, as usual, lead us to seek the institutional sources of policy decisions and theirstability. Individuals and personal whim doubtless make a difference; one might, for example, speculate http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s17.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:59 PM]
  • 44. Rethinking Camelot: Introduction [17/17]that the notorious Kennedy macho streak might have led to dangerous escalation in Indochina, or that hemight have leaned towards an enclave strategy of the type advocated by his close adviser GeneralMaxwell Taylor, or a Nixonian modification with intensified bombing and murderous "acceleratedpacification" but many fewer US ground combat forces; while at home, he might not have committedhimself to "great society" and civil rights issues to the extent LBJ did. Or one might make other guesses.They are baseless, and hold little interest. In the present case, there is a rich record to assist us inunderstanding the roots of policy and its implementation. People who want to understand and change theworld will do well, in my opinion, to pay attention to it, not to engage in groundless speculation as towhat one or another leader might have done. Go to the next chapter.38For a (very small) sample, see Tikkun, March/April 1992; Pete Karman, In These Times, March 11,1992; letters, Nation, March 9, 1992, and an enormous number of similar letters not published,responding angrily to Alexander Cockburns questioning of these beliefs; Michael Parenti, Z magazine,Jan. 1993. Also much discussion on community based radio, in movement journals, correspondence, andother channels out of the mainstream. See also next chapter, p. 85. For some early criticism of thesetendencies, see I.F. Stones Weekly, "The Left and the Warren Commission Report," Oct. 5, 1964. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-intro-s17.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:12:59 PM]
  • 45. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [1/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet C H A P T E R O N E From Terror to Aggression1. The Doctrinal FrameworkTo understand Kennedys war and the aftermath it is necessary to attend to the thinking that lay behindthe policy choices. Kennedy planners adopted doctrines already established. Too much independence("radical nationalism") is not acceptable; the "rotten apple" effect of possible success enhances the needto eliminate the "infection" before it spreads. The Indochina wars are only a special case, whichhappened to get out of hand. In this general context, independent nationalism was unthinkable, and wasnever seriously entertained as an option.By 1948 Washington planners recognized that the nationalist movement was led by Ho Chi Minh and theViet Minh. Ho was eager to cooperate with the United States, but not on the required terms ofsubordination. Furthermore, top policymakers feared, Vietnamese independence might fan "anti-WesternPan-Asiatic tendencies in the region," undermining the "close association between newly-autonomouspeoples and powers which have been long responsible [for] their welfare"; in Indochina, the responsibleauthority was France, whose tender care had left the countries devastated and starving. Chineseinfluence, in contrast, must be excluded "so that the peoples of Indochina will not be hampered in theirnatural developments by the pressure of an alien people and alien interests"; unlike the US and France.The US right to restore the "close association" is axiomatic. It follows that any problems that arise can beattributed to illegitimate nationalist aspirations. On these assumptions, the CIA warned in September1948 that "The gravest danger to the US is that friction engendered by [anticolonialism and economicnationalism] may drive the so-called colonial bloc into alignment with the USSR": Third Worldnationalism is the cause of the "friction," not imperial concerns. The traditional "colonial economicinterests" of the industrial countries must prevail if "friction" interferes with US global plans. SoutheastAsia would have to remain under "its traditional subordination," Melvyn Leffler observes, reviewing abroad scholarly consensus.1The major concern was Japan, the "superdomino" (John Dower). Internally, the old order had to berestored and Japan protected from what the State Department called the "concealed aggression" of theRussians, referring to internal political developments that might threaten business rule. And Japan had tobe deterred from independent foreign and economic policies, from "the suicide of neutralism" (General http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s01.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:01 PM]
  • 46. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [1/27]Omar Bradley) and accommodation to China. The only hope for achieving these goals, George Kennanargued, lay in restoring for Japan "some sort of Empire toward the South." In effect, the US must provideJapan with its wartime "co-prosperity sphere," now safely within the US-dominated world system, withno fear that US business interests would be denied their proper place.2The guiding concerns are articulated in the public record as well. Outlining the "falling dominoes" theoryin a news conference on April 7, 1954, President Eisenhower warned that Japan would have to turn"toward the Communist areas in order to live" if Communist success in Indochina "takes away, in itseconomic aspects, that region that Japan must have as a trading area." The consequences would be "justincalculable to the free world." Walter LaFeber observed in 1968 that "This thesis became a controllingassumption: the loss of Vietnam would mean the economic undermining and probable loss of Japan toCommunist markets and ultimately to Communist influence if not control." Eisenhowers publicstatements expressed the conclusion of NSC 5405 (January 16) that "the loss of Southeast Asia,especially of Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and political pressures in Japan as tomake it extremely difficult to prevent Japans eventual accommodation to communism." Communistdomination of Southeast Asia "by whatever means" would "critically endanger" US "security interests,"understood in the usual sense. The "loss of Vietnam" would therefore be of great significance; that it isours to "lose" is again axiomatic.3Given such doctrines, it is clear why the diplomatic settlement at the 1954 Geneva conference wasregarded as a disaster. Washington reacted vigorously. A few days after the accords were signed, theNational Security Council decreed that even in the case of "local Communist subversion or rebellion notconstituting armed attack," the US would consider the use of military force, including an attack on Chinaif it is "determined to be the source" of the "subversion" (NSC 5429/2; my emphasis).This wording, repeated verbatim annually through the 1950s in planning documents, was chosen so as tomake explicit the US right to violate the basic principles of the UN Charter, which bar any threat or useof force except in resistance to "armed attack" (until the UN Security Council acts). The same documentcalled for remilitarizing Japan, converting Thailand into "the focal point of U.S. covert and psychologicaloperations in Southeast Asia," undertaking "covert operations on a large and effective scale" throughoutIndochina, and in every possible way undermining the Geneva accords.This critically important document is grossly falsified by the Pentagon Papers historians, and has largelydisappeared from history.4 Go to the next segment.1 Leffler, Preponderance, 166, 258. FRS, 32-3. See 501, ch. 2.1 2. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s01.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:01 PM]
  • 47. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [1/27]2 Leffler, 334, 463, 17, 339; also 468f. Cumings, Origins, 57. See references of 501, ch. 2, n. 16.3 PP, I 597, 434f. AWWA, 33f.4 FRS, 100ff.; Kahin, Intervention, 74. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s01.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:01 PM]
  • 48. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [2/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 2/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetRecall that "subversion," like "concealed aggression," is a technical concept covering any form ofunwelcome internal political development. Thus the Joint Chiefs, in 1955, outline "three basic forms ofaggression": armed attack across a border (aggression in the literal sense); "Overt armed attack fromwithin the area of each of the sovereign states"; "Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, orsubversion." An internal uprising against a US-imposed police state, or elections that come out the wrongway, are forms of "aggression," which the US has the right to combat by arbitrary violence. Theassumptions are so ingrained as to pass without notice, as when liberal hero Adlai Stevenson, UNAmbassador under Kennedy and Johnson, declared that in Vietnam the US is defending a free peoplefrom "internal aggression." Stevenson compared this noble cause to the first major postwarcounterinsurgency campaign, in Greece in 1947, where US-run operations successfully demolished theanti-Nazi resistance and the political system and restored the old order, including leading Nazicollaborators, at the cost of some 160,000 lives and tens of thousands of victims of torture chambers, anda legacy of destruction yet to be overcome (along with great benefits to US corporations). Similarpremises are adopted routinely by apologists for state violence; thus Sidney Hook condemned the"incursions" of the indigenous South Vietnamese resistance, praising the US for using armed might tocounter these crimes despite the "unfortunate accidental loss of life" in such exercises as saturationbombing by B-52s in the densely-populated Delta.5The character of the intellectual culture is indicated by the reaction to such thoughts.In accordance with the plans laid out in NSC 5429/2, Washington moved at once to subvert the Genevasettlement, installing a client regime in the South: the GVN (RVN), which regarded itself throughout asthe legitimate government of all Vietnam. With US backing and guidance, the GVN launched a massiveterrorist attack against the domestic population and barred the planned 1956 elections on unification,which were the condition under which the resistance had accepted the Geneva accords. The subversionwas recognized to be successful: as Kennedys chief war manager Robert McNamara observed whileonce again rejecting diplomatic options in March 1964, "Only the U.S. presence after 1954 held theSouth together under far more favorable circumstances, and enabled Diem to refuse to go through withthe 1954 provision calling for nationwide `free elections in 1956."6The facts are described with fair accuracy by US military intelligence. A 1964 study observes that afterthe Geneva Agreements of 1954 that "partitioned" Vietnam, the DRV (North Vietnam) relocated 100,000people to the North, including 40,000 military personnel, leaving behind "Several thousand politicalagitators and activists" and some military forces "with orders to remain dormant." "In 1956, the US-backed president of the RVN -- Ngo Dinh Diem -- blocked the referendum called for by the GenevaAgreements which was to decide the form of government that would rule over a reunited Vietnam. TheCommunists, who saw their hopes for a legal takeover of the whole country vanish by this maneuver, http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s02.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:10 PM]
  • 49. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [2/27]ordered their dormant `stay behinds to commence propaganda activities to put pressure on the new andinexperienced government of the RVN," perhaps hoping "to overthrow the government without having toresort to military activity." By 1957, they "instituted a program of proselytizing RVN armed forcesofficers and men to the VC cause," also following "the standard Communist tactic of infiltrating andsubverting legal political parties." In 1958-1959, "having achieved a degree of popular support in therural areas through pressure, argument, terror and subversion," the VC began to organize guerrilla groupsamong the local populace, later supported by southerners returning from the North (all militaryinfiltrators being "veterans of the French Indo-China War who had served in the area now governed bythe RVN" through 1963, this MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] Intelligence InfiltrationStudy reports).7It is only necessary to add a few minor corrections. The Geneva agreements did not "partition" Vietnambut separated two military zones by a temporary demarcation line that "should not in any way beinterpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary," pending the unification elections of 1956that were the heart of the accords. Intelligence is adopting "the standard US tactic" of denouncingpolitical action that is out of control as subversion. The US client regime was carrying out wholesaleterror to block such "subversion" and destroy the anti-French resistance, finally compelling the latter toresort to violence in self-defense. JFK raised the level of the US attack from international terrorism tooutright aggression in 1961-1962. Apart from Americans, the only non-South Vietnamese forces inSouth Vietnam were US mercenaries, primarily South Korean and Chinese. That aside, US intelligencehas the story more or less straight.Well after regular US bombing of North Vietnam began in February 1965, North Vietnamese units weredetected in border areas or across the border, though Korean mercenaries alone far outnumbered NorthVietnamese as of March 1966 and matched their numbers until the Tet offensive (also, incidentally,providing 20 percent of South Koreas foreign currency revenue and thus helping to spark the latereconomic miracle). There were also Chinese forces, namely mercenaries from Chiang Kai-Sheks armyintroduced by Kennedy and Johnson, six companies of combat infantry by April 1965. North Vietnameseregular units, estimated by the Pentagon at about 50,000 by 1968, were largely in peripheral areas; USmercenary forces, in contrast, were rampaging in the heartland, as was the US military itself. Koreanmercenaries, who were particularly brutal, reached 50,000 by 1969, along with another 20,000 "FreeWorld" and over a half-million US troops.8Washingtons principled opposition to political settlement continued without change. From the early1960s, there was intense concern over French President Charles de Gaulles proposals for neutralization,as well as initiatives towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict by Vietnamese on all sides, includingthe Diem regime and the Generals who replaced it. A political settlement might have extended as far asneutralization of Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam, as advocated by the National Liberation Front(the "Viet Cong" of US propaganda). As discussed above, the US was adamantly opposed to any suchpossibility. Fear of neutralization was one factor in the Kennedy-inspired coup that overthrew Diem, andconsiderable pressures were exerted to bring De Gaulle to retract his initiatives, which appeared stillmore threatening in the context of Kennedys concerns about his role in promoting the "suicide ofneutralism" in Europe. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s02.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:10 PM]
  • 50. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [2/27]Frances position on Vietnam was explained by Foreign Minister Couve de Murville, in response to arequest (April 1964) to clarify what France meant by the term "neutrality." Couves reply was: "Quitesimply, the Geneva Agreements of 1954," which he interpreted as meaning "the division of Viet-Namwith a commitment by both sides not to accept military aid from outside (sic) and not to enter intomilitary alliances -- which is really neutrality." "The South Vietnamese people are out of the game,"Couve added. "All you have is a professional army supported from outside."9The Kennedy and Johnson Administrations knew very well that the generals are "all we have got" andthat "We are at present overwhelmingly outclassed politically" (Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge,January 1964). That is precisely why Washington always regarded diplomacy as anathema: lackingpolitical support, the US could put forth no credible negotiating position. So the story continues rightthrough to the end.10 Go to the next segment.5FRS, ch. 1.6; 72-3; reprinted in Peck, Chomsky Reader. Also APNM, 59, for more on "internalaggression."6 FRUSV-64, 158.7 Oct. 31, 1964; ibid., 864ff.8 Among others, see Kahin, Intervention; Kinnard, War Managers, 37. Koreans, PEHR, I, 5.1.4. RogerHilsman, Director of State Department intelligence and later Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairsunder the Kennedy Administration and for some months after the assassination, alleged in 1967 that"later evidence" shows the presence of at least one battalion of North Vietnamese regulars by the time ofthe February 1965 bombing of the South (which might bring them up to the level of the US Koreanmercenaries), but "that the United States did not know of this fact at that time" (his emphasis); Hilsman,To Move a Nation, 531n.9FRUSV-64, 234-5; report of conversation; "sic" is in the source text. On de Gaulle and Europe, see 501,ch. 2.3.10 Lodge, PP, II 304; FRUSV-64, 18. See MC, ch. 5, for review. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s02.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:10 PM]
  • 51. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [3/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 3/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThe basic reasoning about diplomacy is stated clearly in the internal record. As the US position wascollapsing in 1964 and calls were mounting for an attack against the North, William Bundy wrote thatdiplomacy could be considered "After, but only after, we have established a clear pattern of pressurehurting the DRV and leaving no doubts in South Vietnam of our resolve" (his emphasis). First force, thendiplomacy -- a last resort, if we are sure that we are powerful enough to win.11For similar reasons, opposition to negotiations and diplomacy has been a characteristic US policy stancein Latin America and the Middle East, and remains so, as documented in extensive detail elsewhere.Commentators assume as a matter of course that diplomacy is a threat to be avoided. The principle isconsidered uncontroversial, a truism, perhaps even more so than in the past. In January 1993, when theWest alleged that Iraq was moving missiles within its territory contrary to US wishes (but in accord withUN resolutions), the United States demanded that they be removed. In response, Iraq called fornegotiations on all disputed issues, "An exchange that recalls the maneuvering before the gulf war," theNew York Times reported, highlighting these words. "The ultimatum and Iraqs reply today recalled themaneuvering before the Persian Gulf War, in which the allies set a firm deadline for Iraqi compliancewhile Baghdad sought unsuccessfully to fend off military action with diplomatic tactics," the front-pagestory reported. Pursuit of peaceful means as required by international law and the UN Charter is a crimethat Washington must resolutely resist, keeping to the weapon of violence, in which it reigns supreme;that is unquestioned dogma.It is natural that those who are militarily strong but politically weak will prefer the arena of violence.Apparent exceptions typically reflect the failure of force or perceived advantage. The solemn obligationto pursue peaceful means is notable by its absence in affairs of state. It is part of the responsibility of thecultural managers in every society to cloak such facts in pieties about the high ideals and nobility ofleaders, and to reshape the facts for public consumption.12States are not moral agents; those who attribute to them ideals and principles merely mislead themselvesand others.Public rhetoric reflecting the guiding policy doctrines sometimes rose to near-hysteria. In June 1956,Senator John F. Kennedy stated that: Vietnam represents the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia, the Keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike. Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and, obviously, Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the red tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam... Moreover, the independence of Free Vietnam is crucial to the free world in fields other than the military. Her economy is http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s03.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:12 PM]
  • 52. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [3/27] essential to the economy of all of Southeast Asia; and her political liberty is an inspiration to those seeking to obtain or maintain their liberty in all parts of Asia -- and indeed the world. The fundamental tenets of this nations foreign policy, in short, depend in considerable measure upon a strong and free Vietnamese nation-- which was then enjoying its "inspiring political liberty" under the Diem dictatorship, a Latin American-style terror state dedicated to the murder and torture of people committed to the Geneva settlement andother forms of "concealed aggression."13Kennedy kept to these extremist doctrines. As he prepared to escalate the war to direct US aggression inlate 1961, he warned that "we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy thatrelies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence"; if the conspiracy achieves itsends in Laos and Vietnam, "the gates will be opened wide." "The complacent, the self-indulgent, the softsocieties are about to be swept away with the debris of history [and] Only the strong...can possiblysurvive," Kennedy railed, outraged in this case by Cubas unconscionable defeat of the Bay of Pigsinvasion. Until the end he held that we must support the GVN in its "struggle to maintain its nationalindependence"; "for us to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of South Viet-Nam,but Southeast Asia. So we are going to stay there" (July 17, 1963). "I dont agree with those who say weshould withdraw," he said in a September 2 TV interview with Walter Cronkite: "That would be a greatmistake... It doesnt do us any good to say, `Well, why dont we all just go home and leave the world tothose who are our enemies... We are going to meet our responsibility." In an NBC interview a week later(September 9), Kennedy rejected withdrawal outright: "I think we should stay," he said. We should notwithdraw because withdrawal "only makes it easy for the Communists," who would sweep overSoutheast Asia. Three days later he made his position still clearer: What helps to win the war, we support; what interferes with the war effort, we oppose. I have already made it clear that any action by either government which may handicap the winning of the war is inconsistent with our policy or our objectives. This is the test which I think every agency and official of the United States Government must apply to all of our actions... But we have a very simple policy in that area....: we want the war to be won, the Communists to be contained, and the Americans to go home... But we are not there to see a war lost, and we will follow the policy which I have indicated today of advancing those causes and issues which help win the war.These September 12 remarks became "a policy guideline," Roger Hilsman noted in 1967. Hilsman citedthem as such in a plan for Vietnam that he and his associates prepared, at the Presidents request, and sentto JFK on September 16 (see below). Go to the next segment. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s03.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:12 PM]
  • 53. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [3/27]11PP, III 526; FRUSV-64, 676. Bundy was a high Pentagon official under JFK and LBJ, then AssistantSecretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs.12 See NI and DD (including 1992 "Afterword") for recent examples, review, and sources. MichaelGordon, NYT, Jan. 8, 1993.13JFK, "Americas Stake in Vietnam," American Friends of Vietnam Symposium, 1956, cited by ChesterCooper, Lost Crusade, 168. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s03.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:12 PM]
  • 54. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [4/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 4/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetOn September 26, Kennedy amplified further. We keep troops in Vietnam and elsewhere, he said,because "our freedom is tied up with theirs" and the "security of the United States is thereby endangered"if they pass "behind the Iron Curtain." "So all those who suggest we withdraw [in any way], I could notdisagree with them more." "If the United States were to falter, the whole world, in my opinion, wouldinevitably begin to move toward the Communist bloc."14Aid reductions are excluded, Kennedy stated on March 6, 1963, because tampering with "economicprograms and military programs in South Viet-Nam, in Cambodia, in Thailand" would cause "that area tocollapse," leading to Communist control of "all of Southeast Asia, with the inevitable effect" ofthreatening India and perhaps even the Middle East. There is, then, no "real prospect of the burden beinglightened for the U.S. in Southeast Asia in the next year if we are going to do the job and meet what Ithink are very clear national needs." It is our "objective" to ensure that "the assault from the inside, andwhich is manipulated from the North, is ended" (November 12, 1963). The natural conclusion is that wemust go to the source and punish the manipulators if we fail to contain the "assault from the inside" bySouth Vietnamese peasants against US forces and their agents.After the Diem regime was overthrown on November 1, 1963, there was a "new situation there,"Kennedy told the press, and "we hope, an increased effort in the war" (November 14). He added that ourpolicy should now be to "intensify the struggle" so that "we can bring Americans out of there" -- aftervictory, as the context makes unmistakably clear.In Fort Worth, a few hours before the assassination, Kennedy made his last statement about Vietnam:"Without the United States, South Vietnam would collapse overnight." In the speech he was to give inDallas, he intended to say that "Our successful defense of freedom" in Cuba, Laos, the Congo, and Berlincan be attributed "not to the words we used, but to the strength we stood ready to use"; fair enough, withregard to his selection of Third World illustrations of his "defense of freedom." Kennedy extolled hishuge military buildup, undertaken to blunt the "ambitions of international Communism." As the"watchman on the walls of world freedom" the US had to undertake tasks that were "painful, risky andcostly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task."15In internal discussion, Kennedys consistent position was that everyone must "focus on winning the war."There can be no withdrawal without victory; the stakes are far too high. One can accuse the President ofno duplicity. His public rhetoric accords closely with his stand in internal discussion.Kennedys closest associates maintained the same stance after the assassination. "Unless we can achieve[our] objective in South Vietnam," Robert McNamara informed LBJ in a March 1964 memorandum,"almost all of Southeast Asia will probably fall under Communist dominance," with threats going beyond http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s04.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:14 PM]
  • 55. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [4/27]Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand to the Philippines, India, Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan,Korea, and Japan. "The stakes are high." In a note to LBJ on June 11, Robert Kennedy expressed his fullsupport, saying that Vietnam "is obviously the most important problem facing the United States and ifyou felt I could help I am at your service." As a token of his support, he expressed his willingness toreplace Lodge as Ambassador to Saigon. In May 1965, three months after the bombing of South Vietnamhad been vastly intensified along with the first regular bombing of the North and after US combat forceshad landed, RFK condemned withdrawal as "a repudiation of commitments undertaken and confirmed bythree administrations" which would "gravely -- perhaps irreparably -- weaken the democratic position inAsia." Theodore Sorenson traces RFKs first break with Johnson policy to February 1966, when RFKcalled for a negotiated settlement (but not withdrawal, never an option).16The basic reasoning behind the war was indicated years later by McGeorge Bundy. In retrospect, he feltthat "our effort" in Vietnam was "excessive" after October 1965, when "a new anti-communistgovernment took power in Indonesia and destroyed the communist party," incidentally, slaughteringseveral hundred thousand peasants and securing Indonesias riches for foreign corporations. As Bundynow recognized, with Vietnam already in ruins and Indonesia protected against infection, it may havebeen "excessive" to continue to demolish Indochina at inordinate cost to ourselves. US-supportedmilitary coups in Thailand and the Philippines, the virtual demolition of most of Indochina, and thesubsequent policies of economic strangulation and isolation brought the US at least a partial victory,ensuring that the region will continue to "fulfill its main function," free from any threat of "radicalnationalism." That the US won a considerable victory was clear to the international business communityand others 20 years ago, as already discussed, though not by the standards of those who regard anythingless than attainment of maximal aims as an unthinkable disaster. The questions therefore remain largelyforeign to the intellectual culture.17As the costs to the US began to mount, qualifications began to enter, and when disaster loomed, someproponents of "the domino theory" backed away or even derided it. But Kennedy and his circle did notwaver in their extremism as long as success seemed within reach. The same was true of intellectualopinion. McGeorge Bundy scarcely exaggerated when he wrote that only "wild men in the wings"questioned the basic assumptions of the Kennedy-Johnson war, raising more than tactical questions aboutfeasibility and cost. Furthermore, that judgment remains largely valid today, in elite sectors. Go to the next segment.14Kennedy address to UN General Assembly, Sept. 25, 1961, cited in Gaddis, Strategies, 208; PP, II824,828f.; Schlesinger, 1000 Days, 902; FRUSV, IVl 94;Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 387; Hilsman, To Movea Nation, 505-6. Cuba, see 501, 146.15 Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 323, 425-7, 457; PP, II 817, 831; Paterson, Kennedys Quest, 20-1, 248ff. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s04.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:14 PM]
  • 56. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [4/27]16 See secs. 6-7. FRUSV-64 154. Schlesinger, RFK, 728, 730. Sorenson, Kennedy Legacy, 214.17 Bundy, cited by David Fromkin and James Chace, Foreign Affairs (Spring 1985). See FRS, 48f., andmuch subsequent discussion, including PEHR and MC. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s04.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:14 PM]
  • 57. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [5/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 5/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet2. Kennedys WarLacking popular support, the client government established by Eisenhower turned to extensive terrordirected against the anti-French resistance (Viet Minh, later relabelled "Viet Cong"). "There can be nodoubt," a 1972 study prepared for the Pentagon concludes, "that innumerable crimes and absolutelysenseless acts of suppression against both real and suspected Communists and sympathizing villagerswere committed. Efficiency took the form of brutality and a total disregard for the difference betweendetermined foes and potential friends." Killing and repression began at once, with over 10,000 killed by1957. Bernard Fall estimates about 66,000 killed between 1957 and 1961, another 89,000 between 1961and April 1965, virtually all of them South Vietnamese, victims of state terror or "the crushing weight ofAmerican armor, napalm, jet bombers and finally vomiting gases."18By 1956, military historian Eric Bergerud observes, "Many of the most vulnerable cadres had alreadybeen imprisoned or killed." Though Diems post-Geneva terror "left the [Communist] Party reeling,"through 1959 "the Party adhered to the policy of political rather than violent resistance" and "by andlarge honored the Geneva Accords," having "dismantled the bulk of its military apparatus," leaving itscadres "relatively disarmed." It finally decided "to answer in kind" though with "a small-scale and secreteffort" until 1960, a reaction that elicited hysterical outrage in the United States over Communist perfidy.Having lost its only asset, the monopoly of violence, the GVN faced imminent collapse. As Kennedytook over, the US position seemed desperate in both Laos and Vietnam. By 1961, the Pentagon Papersreport, it had become clear in both Saigon and Washington that the yellow star of the Viet Cong was in the ascendancy... The VC continued to hold the initiative in the countryside, controlling major portions of the populace and drawing an increasingly tight cinch around Saigon. The operative question was not whether the Diem government as it was then moving could defeat the insurgents, but whether it could save itself.Kennedy accepted a diplomatic settlement, at least on paper, in Laos, but chose to respond by militaryescalation in Vietnam.19Under Eisenhower, the Pentagon Papers report, US forces had been "strictly advisory," following thenorm of the Latin American terror states. But as JFK took over in 1961, "the U.S. had in additionprovided military capabilities such as helicopters and tactical air support" by January 1962, followingKennedys authorization of USAF Farmgate operations in October. On November 22, 1961, the President http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s05.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:17 PM]
  • 58. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [5/27]authorized use of US forces "in a sharply increased effort to avoid a further deterioration of the situationin SVN [South Vietnam]," including "increased airlift to the GVN in the form of helicopters, lightaviation and transport aircraft," and both equipment and US personnel "for aerial reconnaissance,instruction in and execution of air-ground support and special intelligence." Included in the "US militaryunits" were three army Helicopter Companies, a Troop Carrier Squadron with 32 planes, combat aircraft,a Reconnaissance Unit, and six C-123 aircraft equipped for defoliation. On November 11, the NSC hadauthorized dispatch of "Aircraft, personnel and chemical defoliants to kill Viet Cong food crops anddefoliate selected border and jungle areas," and by November 27 it was reported that "sprayingequipment had been installed on Vietnamese H-34 helicopters, and is ready for use against food crops."US military personnel were increased from 841 to 5576 by June 30, 1962. MAAG [Military AssistanceAdvisory Group] teams were extended to battalion level and were "beginning to participate more directlyin advising Vietnamese unit commanders in the planning and execution of military operations plans." ByFebruary 1962, the US Air Force "had already flown hundreds of missions," John Newman writes, citingan army history, often with only a low-ranking Vietnamese enlisted man for show. In one week of May1962, Vietnamese Air Force and US helicopter units flew about 350 sorties (offensive, airlift, etc.).20US escalation led to "a noticeable improvement," Hilsman wrote. In particular, "the helicopters weregrand... Roaring in over the treetops, they were a terrifying sight to the superstitious Viet Cong peasants,"who "simply turned and ran," becoming "easy targets." Kennedy also authorized the use of napalm,which particularly delighted MACV Commander General Paul Harkins; asked about the consequences ofnapalming villages, he replied that it "really puts the fear of God into the Viet Cong." By mid-1962, theCIA was conducting intelligence and sabotage operations against the North, as well as "counter-terror"(the technical term for "our terror") in the South. The intent of Kennedys 1961-1962 escalation was "tofight the insurgency by destroying its economic base and disrupting the social fabric of the areas wherethe Front was strongest" by a variety of means, later extended to "defoliation, air attack, andindiscriminate artillery bombardment of what later were to be called `free fire zones" (Bergerud).21As military operations were intensified in 1962, the US military became concerned that "supporting airand artillery were an inducement [to ARVN, the GVN army] to rely on indiscriminate firepower as asubstitute for aggressiveness." It was not long before State Department intelligence transmitted reports"that indiscriminate bombing in the countryside is forcing innocent or wavering peasants toward the VietCong" and that over 100,000 Montagnards had fled VC-controlled areas, in part because of "Theextensive use of artillery and aerial bombardment and other apparently excessive and indiscriminatemeasures by GVN military and security forces," which have "undoubtedly killed many innocent peasantsand made many others more willing than before to cooperate with the Viet Cong." Extensive use of airpower and crop destruction might provoke "militant opposition among the peasants and positiveidentification with the Viet Cong," who were recruiting locally and depended on the local population forconcealment and support (December 1962). Superhawk Dennis Duncanson of the British AdvisoryMission reported that the policy of random bombardment of villages in "open zones" (where norestrictions applied) was the "principal cause of a huge migration of tribesmen in the summer of 1962,"citing estimates from 125,000 to 300,000. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s05.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:17 PM]
  • 59. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [5/27] Go to the next segment.18IDA study on pacification by Chester Cooper, et al., cited by Bergerud, Dynamics, 14; Kolko,Anatomy, 89, giving the "conservative estimate" of 12,000 killed for 1955-57; Fall, New Society, April22, 1965; reprinted in Fall and Raskin, Vietnam Reader. The US Government accepted the 89,000 figure;see minutes of July 1965 meetings cited by Kahin, Intervention, 385.19Bergerud, Dynamics, 13f., 18f., 47. PP, II 134. See sec. 3, below. On Laos, see AWWA, FRS, andsources cited.20 PP, II 360, 656-8, 677. Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 205-6. Crop destruction, Kahin, Intervention, 478.21Hilsman, To Move a Nation, 444, 442. Operations against North, see below. Bergerud, Dynamics, 256,70. For some details on the early stages of JFKs aggression and the "accidental" atrocities, along with atortured effort to depict the Presidents initiatives as opposition to escalation, see Newman, JFK andVietnam, 149ff., 159ff., 201ff. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s05.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:17 PM]
  • 60. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [6/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 6/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThe problem caused by "increased aggressiveness," including use of artillery and air power "to `softenup the enemy" concealed among the population, was noted by Kennedys dovish advisers Hilsman andNational Security Staff member Michael Forrestal, who observed that "No one really knows...how manyof the 20,000 `Viet Cong killed last year [1962] were only innocent or at least persuadable villagers" and"it is impossible to assess how much resentment among persuadable villagers is engendered by theinevitable accidents" (attacks on the wrong village, for example). The same problems arose later in Laos,and in Cambodia, where total air war against the peasant community played a significant role inmobilizing the Khmer Rouge, as attested by US government studies and independent scholarship.22By 1962, Kennedys war had far surpassed the French war at its peak in helicopters and aerial fire power.As for personnel, France had 20,000 nationals fighting in all of Indochina in 1949 (US force levelsreached 16,700 under JFK), increasing to 57,000 at the peak.23Kennedys aggression was no secret. In March 1962, US officials announced publicly that US pilots wereengaged in combat missions (bombing and strafing). By October, after three US planes were shot downin two days, a front-page story in the New York Times reported that "in 30 percent of all the combatmissions flown in Vietnamese Air Force planes, Americans are at the controls," though "national insigniahave been erased from many aircraft, both American and Vietnamese, ...to avoid the thorny internationalproblems involved." The press reported further that US Army fliers and gunners were taking the militaryinitiative against southern guerrillas, using HU-1A helicopters, which had more firepower than anyWorld War II fighter plane, as an offensive weapon. Armed helicopters were regularly supporting ARVNoperations. US operations in 1962 in the Delta region in the southern sector of South Vietnam werereported by journalist Robert Shaplen, among others.24The character of Kennedys war was also no secret. In a 1963 book, journalist Richard Tregaskis reportedhis interviews with US helicopter pilots who described how "wild men" of the helicopter units wouldshoot civilians for sport in "solid VC areas." Describing visits to hamlets that had been hit by napalm andheavy bombs in US air strikes, Malcolm Browne, AP correspondent from 1961, observed that "there isno question that the results are revolting. Unfortunately, the Viet Cong builds bunkers so skillfully it israrely touched by aerial bombs or napalm, except in cases of direct hits. But huts are flattened, andcivilian loss of life is generally high. In some, the charred bodies of children and babies have madepathetic piles in the middle of the remains of market places."25The character of Kennedys war was revealed further by Roger Hilsman. In his 1967 book, he cites aDecember 19, 1962 report of his Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which identifies several problems.One is that "excessive use of air strikes in the absence of ground contact with the enemy continues to killa lot of innocent peasants." Another is that the core element of the pacification program -- the plan to http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s06.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:19 PM]
  • 61. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [6/27]drive some 7 million peasants into "strategic hamlets" -- was not being well implemented. "The purposeof these measures is to isolate and protect the peasants from the Communists," but "excessive use of airpower and crop destruction" and other terror techniques "may well develop a militant opposition from thepeasants and their positive identification with the Viet Cong."In retrospect, Hilsman also expressed his unhappiness about defoliation, which "was just too reminiscentof gas warfare," and napalm, "a standard item of issue" with "ample stockpiles"; the battle over its use"had long since been lost" by mid-1962. "What was debatable," he wrote in 1967, "was whether it was onbalance a gain or a loss to bomb huts, `structures, and villages that had been reported to be Viet Cong." Itwas debatable for two reasons: first, intelligence was faulty so that the wrong villages might be struck;second, "indiscriminate bombing, or even carelessness in bombing, would turn the people toward theViet Cong." It is these reservations that identify Hilsman as a leading dove.To illustrate some of the problems, Hilsman described an operation of January 21, 1962. The seniorAmerican adviser who planned the operation called for an early morning attack by B-26s from theFarmgate squadron, who were to bomb and strafe a cluster of huts near the Cambodian border; "butthrough a tragic error in map-reading," Hilsman writes, "they in fact attacked a Cambodian village justover the border, killing and wounding a number of villagers." Fortunately, the error was quickly rectified.Five minutes later, the US bombers attacked the intended village with 500-pound bombs, along with T-28 rocket attacks. The huts were bombed and strafed for 45 minutes, wounding 11 civilians and killing 5others, including children of 2, 5, and 7. An airborne battalion was then dropped by parachute. "Exceptfor the error that led to bombing the Cambodian village, the plan was well and efficiently executed -- butit was more appropriate to the European fronts of World War II than it was to guerrilla warfare." "Thegreatest problem," Hilsman continued, "is that bombing huts and villages will kill civilians and push thepopulation still further toward active support for the Viet Cong"; that they did commonly support theViet Cong, and that the GVN could only control them by force, was no secret to the head of StateDepartment intelligence. Go to the next segment.22PP, II 455, 706-9, 714, 696, 703, 717-18. FRUSV, III 51, 57. Duncanson, Government and Revolution,321. On Cambodia, see particularly Ben Kiernan, "The American Bombardment of Kampuchea, 1969-1973," Vietnam Generation, 1.1 (1989).23 FRS, 141.24NYT, March 10; AP, NYT, Oct. 17, p. 1; Oct. 22, 1962. David Halberstam, NYT, Oct. 16, 1962;Shaplen, Lost Revolution, 170ff.25 Tregaskis, Vietnam Diary, 108; Browne, New Face of War, 118. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s06.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:19 PM]
  • 62. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [6/27]http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s06.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:19 PM]
  • 63. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [7/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 7/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetHilsman favored counterinsurgency over World War II-style operations. He therefore supported Britishadviser Sir Robert Thompsons concept of strategic hamlets, into which South Vietnamese were to beherded by force or random bombardment. These concentration camps, Hilsman explains, were to "createthe physical security the villager must have before he could make a free choice between the Vietcong andthe government," a "free choice" denied him in his native village. But the plan failed. Citing Thompson,Hilsman notes that "there had been no real effort to isolate the population from the Viet Cong byeliminating Viet Cong agents and supporters inside the strategic hamlets and by imposing controls on themovement of people and supplies." "Vietcong agents remained in place" and "some Viet Cong supportersand agents...had no difficulty repenetrating the hamlet and continuing subversion." The correct strategywould have been to ensure that all such supporters and agents were "eliminated before the troops andcivic action teams moved on to the next" area. "It seemed obvious that putting defenses around a villagewould do no good if the defenses enclosed Viet Cong agents," still free to talk to their brothers orcousins. "Free choice" is available only under armed guard by an occupying army in an encampmentsurrounded by barbed wire, with the political opposition "eliminated." The Pentagon Papers analyst addsthat it was not easy to gain the loyalty of people who had to be "herded forcibly from their homes," orbombed out of them, and who, for some reason, showed "resentment if not active resistance" to theseforthcoming efforts to offer them a "free choice," American-style.26Hilsmans views mark the dovish end of the Camelot spectrum. At the other extreme, Walt Rostow,General Curtis LeMay, and others called for US force to get on with the job.In his moral-historical tract, Guenter Lewy, who departs from the official Party Line only in that herecognizes no category of "innocent peasants," reports that by the end of 1962, the US had deployed 149helicopters and 73 fixed-wing aircraft, which had carried out 2048 attack sorties. "Areas which could notbe penetrated by government forces were declared `open zones, and villages in them were subjected torandom bombardment by artillery and aircraft so as to drive the inhabitants into the safety of the strategichamlets," the idea being "to concentrate the rural population in fortified villages so as to provide themwith physical security against the VC," who most supported, according to US government studies. Theonly problem is that "these measures of coercion further alienated the population," and were thereforeunwise. The Wehrmacht officers who helped write the counterinsurgency manuals doubtless appreciatedhis sentiments.Noted humanitarians took much the same position, for example, Leo Cherne, chairman of the executivecommittee of Freedom House and of the board of directors of the International Rescue Committee. Thisrespected advocate of the rights of (certain) refugees wrote in December 1965 that "There are more than700,000 additional refugees who have recently fled the countryside dominated by the Vietcong and withtheir act of flight have chosen the meager sanctuary provided by the government of South Vietnam." As http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s07.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:21 PM]
  • 64. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [7/27]he wrote, a US government-sponsored study observed that US air and artillery bombardment impel thevillagers "to move where they will be safe from such attacks...regardless of their attitude to the GVN,"facts hardly obscure to any person of minimal literacy at the time.27And well before. It is worth noting that the US attack on South Vietnam, and the mounting atrocities,aroused no detectable interest or concern, just as the US-run terror campaign of the 1950s had passedwith scarcely a raised eyebrow. And the more humane ideas of Hilsman and other doves, who preferredconcentration camps and extermination of the political opposition to indiscriminate bombardment, werehighly praised, criticized only for the incompetence of these efforts to provide a "free choice" to theSouth Vietnamese peasants we "protected." One of the more striking revelations in the Pentagon Paperswas the utterly casual attitude towards terror and slaughter in the South, questioned only because ofproblems it might cause us among the targeted population and the embarrassment if B-52 raids "do notshow significant results," which might make us "look silly and arouse criticism" (William Bundy). Thedecisions to bomb the North and to send US combat troops receive extensive deliberation. Virtually noattention is given to what Bernard Fall recognized at once as the fundamental policy decision of early1965: "what changed the character of the Vietnam war," he wrote, "was not the decision to bomb NorthVietnam; not the decision to use American ground troops in South Vietnam; but the decision to wageunlimited aerial warfare inside the country at the price of literally pounding the place to bits." In general,the population of the South was considered fair game for whatever the US chose to do.This understanding was largely shared in the intellectual culture at home. The bombing of the North andthe dispatch of US combat forces were controversial. Bombing of the South and other atrocities were not,until much later. The astonishing disparity of planning revealed in the Pentagon Papers also passedwithout notice, presumably being taken as obvious.28The reasons are clear. The bombing of the North and the dispatch of US combat troops might be harmfulto us. Slaughter in the South could be conducted with complete impunity, at least until popularopposition finally began to take shape. A comparison to Reagans wars in Central America in the 1980sgives a useful measure of the cultural change brought about by the popular movements that finally arose,and explains why they have evoked such horror in many circles. Go to the next segment.26Hilsman, To Move a Nation, 437-56, 524; "Two American Counterstrategies to Guerrilla Warfare," inTsou, China. PP, II 149, 130. See FRS, ch. 1.VI.5.2, for more on the concept of "democracy" and "freechoice" as understood by the planners.27 Lewy, America in Vietnam, 24f.; TNCW, 404-5. On the Nazi model for counterinsurgency, seeMcClintock, Instruments, 58ff., 207ff. 501, ch 10.3. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s07.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:21 PM]
  • 65. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [7/27]28 For review, see FRS, ch. 1.VI.1. Fall, New Republic, Oct. 9, 1965. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s07.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:21 PM]
  • 66. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [8/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 8/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet3. Shared GroundIt is well to be aware of just how much agreement there is about the nature of the war in the specialistliterature. The consensus is well illustrated by the detailed and informative province studies. The first ofthese, and to this day the most important, was the 1969 study of Long An province by Jeffrey Race, a USArmy adviser in South Vietnam who compiled one of the most important documentary records. The mostrecent to appear is a 1991 study of Hau Nghia province by Eric Bergerud. These studies focus on twocritically important provinces in the Delta near Saigon, which were typical of much of the areas ofinsurgency; both studies review the larger context as well, and reach conclusions not seriouslyquestioned elsewhere, apart from tactical judgments.29Both analysts recognize that the US-imposed regime had no legitimacy in the countryside, where 80percent of the population lived (and little enough in the urban areas); and that only force couldcompensate for this lack. Both report that by 1965, when the US war against South Vietnam moved tosheer devastation, the VC had won the war in the provinces they studied, with little external support.Race observes that "the government terrorized far more than did the revolutionary movement -- forexample, by liquidations of former Vietminh, by artillery and ground attacks on `communist villages,and by roundups of `communist sympathizers. Yet it was just these tactics that led to the constantlyincreasing strength of the revolutionary movement in Long An from 1960 to 1965." Prior to 1960, theDiem regime enjoyed a near monopoly of violence and pursued the conflict "through its relentlessreprisal against any opposition, its use of torture," and other severe repression, while the CommunistParty, "at great cost," kept to "an almost entirely defensive role." When violence was authorized in self-defense, the VC quickly took over the province, parts of which were declared a free strike zone in 1964.US troops took over and vastly increased the violence in 1965. The first North Vietnamese unitsappeared in 1968.GVN officials were aware that "communist cadres are close to the people, while ours are not," but neverunderstood why. They failed entirely to address the needs of the rural masses, in contrast with therevolutionary forces, who "offered concrete and practical solutions to the daily problems of substantialsegments of the rural population..." The only recourse was terror, then the incomparable greater violenceof the invaders.Bergeruds conclusions are similar. The Government "lacked legitimacy with the rural peasantry," while"the great strength of the Communist-led National Liberation Front...which enjoyed widespread supportamong the peasantry, ... frustrated allied efforts," as did the unwillingness of the GVN or the US topropose any "fundamental change in the social or economic makeup of South Vietnam." The basicproblem was the "extremely formidable political apparatus" of the NLF, their "extremely popular" http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s08.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:24 PM]
  • 67. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [8/27]programs that "earned for the Viet Minh the loyalty and gratitude of hundreds of thousands of poorpeasants," many of whom had supported the Viet Minh for generations and had "learned from earlychildhood to view reality through the prism of Viet Cong ideas, beliefs and prejudices," anthropologist-adviser Gerald Hickey observed in 1962. US-GVN terror and violence only increased the "peasantrysdeep hatred" for the client regime."In harsh reality, activists in rural Vietnam willing `to help build an effective local government systemand support and defend that system [as advocated by US advisors] were almost exclusively on the sideof the Front," which had constructive programs that the US and its clients could not emulate withouteroding their own power. "There can be no doubt that...the Front had a virtual lock on the `best andbrightest of the rural youth," "the support of the most politically aware and most determined segment ofthe peasantry," and that only "the Front and not the GVN possessed legitimacy in much of ruralVietnam." By the end of 1965, "the NLF had won the war in Hau Nghia province." The CIArepresentative there concluded that "98 percent of the insurgents in the province were local and that theyneither got nor needed substantial aid from Hanoi," even producing their own weapons locally. When theUS 25th Infantry Division took over in January 1966, "Hau Nghia was controlled almost entirely by theNLF and had been for some time."With the US takeover of the war, the legitimacy of the Front if anything increased. By 1966, its followers"could claim very plausibly that they were defending national sovereignty" -- against US aggressors,though the inference cannot be drawn. "Manpower and food for the Front came from the hamletsthemselves," while the US 25th Division, then rampaging through the province, of course "had to importeverything." ARVN was hardly more than a mercenary force. "Given the local sentiment," US-run"programs leading toward economic betterment had to come from the outside," and were "an abjectfailure"; not surprising, given estimates in some of the targeted areas that about 70 percent of thepopulation were pro-NLF, and only 1 percent openly supported the government, the rest being neutral.The situation in Laos was similar. The problem there, Hilsman writes, was that "the Communist PathetLao were busy drumming up popular support in the two northern provinces, and there were some fearsthat they would launch a military offensive -- although in retrospect the threat seems more likely to havebeen an expansion of political control based on winning peasant support in the villages." The "threat"was revealed in the 1958 elections. Despite extensive US efforts to subvert them, 9 Pathet Lao (NLHS)candidates and 4 "left-leaning neutralists" were elected (along with 5 right-wingers and 3 non-partydelegates), and the leading NLHS figure, Prince Souphanouvong, received more votes than any othercandidate. The US was therefore compelled to overthrow the government, placing the ultra-right inpower and running elections rigged so crudely that even the most pro-US observers were appalled, whilethe State Department conceded that the NLHS was "in a position to take over the entire country" by 1961because of their effective organizing. Hilsman held that "pro-Western, anti-Communist neutrality" -- arevealing concept, standard in the literature -- "might be the most that could be expected from a countrylike Laos."30In the face of these bitter realities in South Vietnam, Bergerud continues, the US had only one option:violence. For Kennedy and his circle, violence raised at most tactical problems; the client regime http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s08.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:24 PM]
  • 68. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [8/27]understood that there was no other choice, despite the negative impact on villagers when Diems agents"beheaded suspects in neighboring hamlets" and otherwise murdered, tortured, and destroyed."Pacification activities in Hau Nghia were basically coercive in nature from the very beginning, despite`revolutionary programs or rhetoric coming from CORDS [the "hearts and minds" contingent] or theGVN. Force, much of it coming from the U.S. Army, was always the key component." "Almost all`progress was coercive," and "essentially negative," aimed merely at "military attrition" of theindigenous resistance. In February 1965, the US began regular bombing of Front zones in Hau Nghia,which "were early and frequent targets of the B-52s," with their massive and indiscriminate destruction.By the time the 25th Division arrived, "most free fire zones had become largely depopulated." Cropdestruction and other defoliation operations were undertaken from 1962 in the hope they "would forcevillagers to leave Front areas and move to regions that had a GVN presence and were thus safe fromspraying." From the outset, "anything of importance that was accomplished...was due to coercion andviolence, most of it supplied by U.S. forces."The coercion and violence had their successes. Crop destruction and other atrocities caused peasants toflee to "safety." "The huge number of Front followers killed, wounded, captured, or driven to surrendershook the Front very badly." And the US military campaign did cause "great destruction and much lossof innocent life," removing much of the population to "safety" as "Slowly the hamlets were eaten awayby small VC initiated incidents and massive U.S. retaliation" (civilian adviser Ollie Davidson). The post-Tet pacification campaign, with its virtually unrestrained terror, finally produced "favorable trends."("High Tide for the Allies: 1970" is the chapter heading.) Go to the next segment.29Race, War; Bergerud, Dilemmas. I am personally indebted to Race for having shared some of hismaterial with me in the late 1960s. Though I could not cite it before publication, it influenced my ownunderstanding of the war.30 Hilsman, To Move a Nation, 112. See AWWA, ch. 3. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s08.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:24 PM]
  • 69. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [9/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 9/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetBut it came too late. "Unfortunately for the United States, the long war of attrition required to weaken theNLF was simultaneously a crushing burden on the U.S. Army and led inevitably to a steady decline inpublic support for the war effort" in the US, while dissolving the remnants of the client regime.As the rhetoric indicates, these are not the reflections of a dove. Bergerud begins by informing the readerthat he accepts "the moral validity...of the Vietnam war." His commitment is so firm that no otherposition is even thinkable. Thus in his review of the "large number of interesting books andarticles...concerning the American conduct of the Vietnam War," all, without exception, share hisunwavering faith in the "moral validity" of the US effort, differing only on how the noble cause shouldhave been implemented.It may be true that the Front had "gained moral ascendancy" in Vietnam, could fairly claim to bedefending "national sovereignty" against the US aggressors, could easily have won the political victory itsought, and was even able to win military victory before the total takeover by the invading superpower,which could respond to its political strength and popular support only by extraordinary terror andviolence. But there can be no question of the "moral validity" of the US cause. "Only American militaryintervention offered hope for the future" after the Front had won control of the province, Bergerudconcludes, "hope" being identified with victory by the aggressors and the local thugs they imposed.Furthermore, "the Front was ruthless in its tactics, unquestionably more so than the GVN," a conclusionthat follows at once from the fact that the vastly greater terror and violence of the US clients was in arighteous cause; the US, by definition, cannot be "ruthless," however murderous and destructive, just as itcannot lack "moral validity," whatever it does.Despite such axioms -- which are familiar through the 500-year conquest, and can readily be duplicatedin Stalinist and Nazi archives -- Bergerud remains an honest historian, whose contributions are of valuenot only in thoroughly refuting his judgments, but also in baring the reality with telling clarity.It would be unfair to leave the impression that Bergerud is extreme in these attitudes. He does notapproach Guenter Lewy, who he much admires; or Sidney Hook, or Leo Cherne, or other really extremeadvocates of state terror and atrocities. And as already noted, and shown in far greater detail elsewhere,the most liberal and humane sectors of intellectual opinion do not depart from these assumptions in anyfundamental way. It is "clear," the New York Times proclaims, that "the lesson of Vietnam was a sense ofthe limits of United States power." "Clear," and subject to no discussion. In contrast, the lesson ofAfghanistan was not "a sense of the limits of Soviet power," except, perhaps, to some utterlyunreconstructed Stalinists. Discussing with much approval the "heroic tale" of a Vietnamese collaboratorwith the French imperialists and their American successors, the Timesreviewer describes the methods hedevised in 1962 to destroy the "political organization" of the South Vietnamese revolutionaries. The most http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s09.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:26 PM]
  • 70. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [9/27]successful device was to send "counter-terror teams to track down and capture or kill recalcitrantVietcong officials" -- counter-terror teams, because it was the US and its clients who were assassinatingcivilians to undermine an indigenous political organization that they could not confront in the politicalarena, as fully conceded.31 The lessons taught by the Wehrmacht advisers have been absorbed wellbeyond Army counterinsurgency manuals, not surprisingly, given their deep roots in the tradition andculture.Children must be rigorously indoctrinated in these conventions to ensure that Political Correctness willreign unchallenged. The most extensive study of high school history texts found that the wordterror"does not appear once in reference to U.S. or client practices in any of the 48 texts examined in1979 and 1990. The Viet Cong, it is duly noted, murdered and terrorized; one can only wonder how theycould possibly out-terrorize Diems U.S.-backed forces." The answer to that question is quite simple: it istrue by definition, the same device that expunges the vastly greater US terror, and its aggression itself,from the annals of history.32The task of restoring doctrinal conformity among the general population in the post-Vietnam war era hasnot been an easy one. Considerable effort has been required to entrench a proper understanding of whathad happened, and to eradicate the deviant view that the American war was "fundamentally wrong andimmoral," not merely a "mistake." This element of the dread "Vietnam syndrome" still infected 71percent of the population in 1990 (72 percent in 1982, 66 percent in 1986), despite the massive effortsundertaken to overcome the malady, to which educated elites were far less vulnerable. State policies thatlose their lustre are reflexively portrayed by respectable intellectuals as a "failed crusade," undertaken foraims that are "noble" but "illusory" and "motivated by the loftiest intentions" (Stanley Karnowsjudgment in his best-selling companion volume to a PBS TV series on the war). It is the responsibility ofthe assassins of history to portray crime as "failure," a mere "aberration," only an apparent departurefrom our nobility and the perfection of our institutions. Unfortunate consequences are the result ofmisunderstanding and naiveté, or perhaps the fault of evil men who unaccountably gained inordinatepower, soon to be expelled from the body politic.33This much is close to a cultural universal, and the source of much derision when found in enemy states.For the more extreme and humorless Stalinist party hacks, inability to comprehend such Higher Truthsdemonstrated the "anti-Sovietism" of the miscreants, a charge that is the very hallmark of a totalitarianculture and is unknown apart from Stalinist Russia, Brazil under the Generals, Nazi Germany, and a fewother cases, among them the intellectual mainstream in the United States and its British counterpart,where books on "Anti-Americanism" are highly praised and solemnly reviewed by fellow commissars.34Outside of such circles, comparable notions would appear merely comical; consider, for example, thelikely reaction in Rome or Milan to the notion "anti-Italianism" -- post-Mussolini, that is.So effectively has history been rewritten that an informed journalist at the left-liberal extreme can reportthat "the US militarys distrust of cease-fires [in Iraq] seems to stem from the Vietnam War," when theCommunist enemy -- but not, apparently, the US invaders -- "used the opportunity [of a bombing pause]to recover and fight on" (Fred Kaplan). Near the dissident extreme of scholarship, the chairman of theCenter for European Studies at Harvard can inform us that Nixons Christmas bombing of Hanoi in 1972 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s09.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:26 PM]
  • 71. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [9/27]"brought the North Vietnamese back to the conference table" (Stanley Hoffmann). Such fables, long agodemolished, are alive and well, as the propaganda system has elegantly recovered; no real problemamong the educated classes, who had rarely strayed from the Party Line. The achievements ofpropaganda are well-illustrated by the fact that Americans generally estimate Vietnamese deaths at about100,000, a recent academic study reveals, about 5 percent of the official figure. It is as if the Germanpublic estimated Holocaust deaths at 300,000, the authors note.35What conclusion we would draw about the political culture of Germany if the public were to believe suchan estimate, while its moral and intellectual leaders declare their righteousness? A question we mightponder, as Year 501 dawns. Go to the next segment.31Peter Applebome, NYT, March 1; Terrence Maitland, NYT Book Review, Feb. 3, 1991, reviewing ZalinGrant, Facing the Phoenix.32John Marciano, "Ideological Hegemony and the War Against Vietnam: A Critique of United StatesHistory Textbooks," State U. of NY at Cortland, ms., 1992. See also Griffen and Marciano, Lessons;David Berman, "In Cold Blood: Vietnam in Textbooks," Vietnam Generation 1.1, 1989.33 Karnow, Vietnam. On its severe factual errors and distortion, see my "Vietnam War in the Age ofOrwell," Race & Class (London: 4, 1984); Boston Review, Jan. 1984. On the patriotic bias of theaccompanying TV series, and the intriguing interpretation of it as a left-wing deviation, see MC, 248ff.;illustrations throughout of elite opinion and the efforts to bring the public back into line. Opinionsurveys, Gallup, for Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (MC, 238, on1982, 1986).34 For examples, see LL, letter 17.35Kaplan, BG, Feb. 23; Hoffmann, BG, Jan. 6, 1991. Sut Jhally, Justin Lewis, & Michael Morgan, TheGulf War: A Study of the Media, Public Opinion, & Public Knowledge, Department of Communications,U Mass. Amherst. Morgan, et al., in Mowlana, Triumph. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s09.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:26 PM]
  • 72. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [10/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 10/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet4. Kennedys Plans and their ImportJFKs aggression was later escalated to a full-scale attack against all of Indochina, becoming one of themost destructive wars of the 500-year conquest. The war also had a long-term impact on the US andglobal economies, and on political and cultural life. Public indignation over US crimes, though longdelayed and never remotely commensurate with their scale, spread to substantial parts of the population.The war stimulated the popular movements of the 1960s, which proliferated and expanded through theReagan years. The ferment brought previously marginalized sectors into the political arena to pursuetheir concerns, causing the "crisis of democracy" that liberal elites found so ominous. The ideologicalinstitutions of the West have devoted substantial energies to reimposing discipline on a public that wasfalling out of control, with mixed success. These have been highly significant features of the post-Vietnam years.The Kennedy-Johnson transition of 1963-1964 assumes a special interest in this connection. It isparticularly enlightening to see how Vietnam policies were portrayed by the Kennedy intellectuals at thetime, then reinterpreted after the enterprise turned sour and the disaster had to be dated to November 23,1963 so as to preserve the image of Camelot and the reputations of the courtiers. This is an intriguingchapter of cultural history, still unfolding.The significance of the issue is enhanced by its alleged relation to the Kennedy assassination, a topic thathas aroused much attention and indeed passion, peaking in 1991-1992. In this case, as noted earlier, it islargely grassroots elements (often called "the left"36) that have taken up the cudgels in the defense ofPresident Kennedy, on the theory that he was assassinated by powerful groups that perceived him to be adangerous "radical reformer." These dark forces are variously identified as the CIA, the far right,militarists, etc. Many on the left accept this perception as accurate, holding that JFK was about towithdraw from Vietnam, end the Cold War and the arms race, smash the CIA to a thousand pieces,dismantle the military-industrial complex, and set the country on a course towards peace and justice.Others hold only that the assassins exaggerated his reformist zeal. Some popular variants bring in otherassassinations, real and alleged. The plot also becomes intertwined with theories of a "secret team" thathas "hijacked the state," bringing us to our current sorry pass.Quite broadly, the assassination is depicted either as bringing to a close an earlier age of innocence (atleast, political legitimacy), or as aborting JFKs plans to lead us toward that condition, in a radicaldeparture from the historical norm. Under either interpretation, the legitimacy of authority was lost infundamental ways with the assassination, never to be regained, a matter of great importance. Thesetendencies, which have received strong support from leading Kennedy intellectuals, have come toconsume a large part of the limited energies and resources of the left. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s10.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:28 PM]
  • 73. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [10/27]Vietnam policies of 1963-1964 play a central role in these conceptions. That is not implausible, given thetiming of the assassination and the subsequent escalation. The sense that this was a historical turningpoint is fortified by other factors: the appeal of Kennedy imagery, the deterioration of the conditions oflife for a large part of the population since the early 1970s, the failure of the civil rights movement torealize its early promise, and the growing recognition that the political and economic systems are notresponsive to the needs and concerns of the general public.When Kennedy was assassinated, the war was still at the level of extreme state terror but limitedaggression. We then face the central question: Did JFK plan to withdraw without victory? The thesiscurrently prevalent among Kennedy intellectuals and large segments of the left is that Kennedy wasindeed carrying out such a plan, aborted by the assassination, and that Johnson at once reversed thispolicy and escalated the war; the two groups then part company on what this indicates about theassassination.37 The thesis is understood to imply that JFK would not have responded to changingconditions in the manner of his closest advisers and war managers. Go to the next segment.36 I will use the term, though with a cautionary note, such terms as "left" and "conservative" having beenlargely deprived of significance, along with much of the terminology of political discourse.37The suggestion of a significant change dates to an interesting analysis by Peter Dale Scott in 1972(PPV). Whatever plausibility the idea may then have had, it is not easy to reconcile with the extensivedocumentation now available. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s10.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:28 PM]
  • 74. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [11/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 11/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetIf true, the thesis is important, lending weight to the belief that Kennedy was indeed a remarkable if notunique figure. If it is groundless, then it becomes reasonable to inquire into the roots of the picture ofinnocence lost, or prospects destroyed.Versions of the thesis have reached a wide audience from the late 1960s in books by Kennedy associatesand assassination theorists. It became a major national issue with the 1991 release of Oliver Stones filmJFK. According to Stone and his colleagues, their primary historical source on Vietnam is a "ten yearstudy" by John Newman, published in 1992 by the conglomerate that produced the film. Presented as amajor historical work, Newmans study is the most ambitious effort to defend the withdrawal-without-victory thesis, which he and others take to be established by his research. The film was released with amajor publicity campaign, with PR specialist Frank Mankiewicz, Robert Kennedys former campaignmanager, in charge of Washington press relations, and reached a huge audience.Stones film elicited a vigorous response, including harsh attacks and favorable reviews, and opinionpieces and letter exchanges across the spectrum, sometimes with considerable passion. Liberal criticstended to support Stones thesis about JFK, while denouncing him for concocting assassinationconspiracies and "[running] away from the serious question, which is why the American policy elite, andthe American political class and press, all of them acting with good intentions, should have gone sowrong, and done so much evil" (William Pfaff). The film was granted a rare front-page story in the NewYork Times, reporting the awed response of viewers to "the only shining star that ever crossed theAmerican political sky," and their amazement to learn "what [JFK] might have done, what they stopped" --"they" having the intended ominous ring. Other viewers asked "Why has this been ignored?," suggestinga link to establishment efforts to disguise the truth about the assassination. That the Warren CommissionReport is a fraud is assumed by a majority of the population, hardly a surprise, given the enormouspublicity the charge has been accorded in the mass media. It is not even surprising to learn that when afaulty transmitter disrupted cable TV service in San Diego, delaying transmission of a film on "the JFKconspiracy," dozens of viewers called the station denouncing this CIA plot. Books condemning theWarren Commission Report dominated the best-seller lists in early 1992, while its critics protestedestablishment suppression of their skepticism.Stones film traced the Kennedy assassination to a high-level conspiracy: CIA, military-industrialcomplex, and others, perhaps even LBJ. The film, Stone informed the National Press Club, suggests thatKennedy was assassinated "because he was determined to withdraw from and never send combat troopsto Vietnam" (that he was "withdrawing from Vietnam" and "had committed himself firmly...to oppose theentry of U.S. combat troops" has been "unequivocally" demonstrated, Stone added, citing ArthurSchlesinger and John Newman). At a Town Hall (New York) forum sponsored by the Nation, NormanMailer told an enthusiastic audience that "If Kennedy was going to end the war in Vietnam, he had to be http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s11.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:30 PM]
  • 75. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [11/27]replaced. Lyndon Johnson was the man to do it." Stones film presents the "overarching paradigm" for allfurther inquiry into the assassination, Mailer went on, though not the complete solution to the mysteriessurrounding this "huge and hideous event, in which the gods warred and a god fell," a cosmic tragedy thatcasts its pall over all subsequent history. The judgment, shared by many others, was articulated by thelead actor, Kevin Costner, in his role as the films hero, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison: "Wehave all become Hamlets in our country, children of a slain father-leader whose killers still possess thethrone."38Newmans book was favorably received, notably, in a prominent review in the New York Times by JFKsclose associate and chronicler, Arthur Schlesinger, who lauded Newmans scholarship and endorsed hismain conclusions, as he did elsewhere as well. Other reviewers also found Newmans argumentconvincing.39 These enthusiastic reactions, and Newmans own media interventions, contributed to the1991-1992 fervor. In a spectrum ranging from the left to leading Kennedy liberals, Newmans book istaken as the basic source establishing the withdrawal-without-victory thesis, with all of its broadimplications.For many reasons, then, it is worthwhile to have a close look at the presidential transition and the issue ofwithdrawal-escalation. The question of what Kennedy might have done, or what was hidden in the secretrecesses of his heart, we may leave to seers and mystics. We can, however, inspect what he did do andsay, an inquiry facilitated by a rich documentary record.40 Go to the next segment.38 Newman, JFK and Vietnam; Stone, Cineaste, no. 1, 1992. Zachary Sklar, co-author of the screenplay,also describes Newmans book as "largely what were lied on" (ibid.). Town Hall Forum, March 3, 1992;William Grimes, NYT, March 5, 1992. Michael Specter, "Explosive Imagery of `JFK Igniting Debate inAudiences," NYT, Dec. 23, 1991. Pfaff, LA Times Syndicate, for release Jan. 11/12, 1992. San Diego TV,AP, April 16, 1992. Costner quoted in the Nation, Jan. 6, 1992, by Alexander Cockburn, whose criticismsof the film and alleged historical background aroused impassioned denunciation in the left press.39 Schlesinger, NYT Book Review, March 29, 1992. Among others, see Guy Halverson, Christian ScienceMonitor, March 19, 1992.40 See the introduction, n. 32 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s11.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:30 PM]
  • 76. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [12/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 12/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet5. The Prospects Look BrightAt first, JFKs 1961-1962 aggression appeared to be a grand success. Hilsmans enthusiasm, cited earlier,was widely shared. By late spring of 1962, the Pentagon Papers analyst observes, "the prospects lookedbright" and "to many the end of the insurgency seemed in sight." The US leadership in Vietnam andWashington "was confident and cautiously optimistic," and "In some quarters, even a measure ofeuphoria obtained."In his semi-official history of the Kennedy presidency, Arthur Schlesinger observes that by the end of1961, "The President unquestionably felt that an American retreat in Asia might upset the whole worldbalance." The stakes being so enormous, he escalated the conflict in the manner already described. "Theresult in 1962 was to place the main emphasis on the military effort" in South Vietnam, Schlesingerwrites, with "encouraging effects" as "The advisers flocked in with the weapons of modern war, fromtypewriters to helicopters," helping to plan military actions in which they "sometimes participatedthemselves." These achievements enabled Kennedy to report in his January 1963 State of the Unionmessage that "The spearpoint of aggression has been blunted in South Vietnam." In Schlesingers ownwords: "1962 had not been a bad year:...aggression checked in Vietnam."41Recall that Kennedy and his historian-associate are describing the year 1962, when Kennedy escalatedfrom extreme terrorism to outright aggression.This optimistic assessment of the prospects for successful aggression led Robert McNamara to initiateplanning for the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam, leaving to the client regime the dirty work ofcleaning up the remnants. Kennedy and McNamara recognized that domestic support for JFKs war wasthin, and that problems might arise if it were to persist too long. The military was divided, but with nointerest in staying on after victory. Similarly, in November 1967, General Westmoreland announced thatwith victory imminent, US troops could begin to withdraw in 1969 (as happened, though undercircumstances that he did not anticipate); that recommendation does not show that he was a secret dove.42Advocacy of withdrawal after assurance of victory was not a controversial stand.In contrast, withdrawal without victory would have been highly controversial. Within the domesticmainstream, that position received scant support: the first timid editorial advocacy of it, to myknowledge, was in late 1969, well after corporate and political elites had determined that the operationshould be liquidated as too costly. When Howard Zinn published a book in 1967 calling for USwithdrawal, the idea was considered too outlandish even to discuss.43 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s12.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:33 PM]
  • 77. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [12/27]The question to be considered, then, is whether JFK, despite his 1961-1962 escalation and his militantpublic stand, planned to withdraw withoutvictory, a plan aborted by the assassination, which cleared theway for Lyndon Johnson and his fellow-warmongers to bring on a major war. Go to the next segment.41 PP, II 174. Schlesinger, 1000 Days, 506-8, 695.42 Kinnard, War Managers, 128.43Zinn, Vietnam. Unable to obtain any notice of the book, Zinn asked me to write about it, as I did. SeeAPNM, ch. 3. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s12.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:33 PM]
  • 78. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [13/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 13/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet6. JFK and Withdrawal: the Early PlansThe major withdrawal decisions were reported at once in the press, and the basic facts about the internaldeliberations lying behind them became known 20 years ago, when the Pentagon Papers appeared.Discussing the "Vietnam problem" as perceived in July 1962, the analyst writes that "At the behest of thePresident, the Secretary of Defense undertook to reexamine the situation there and address himself to itsfuture -- with a view to assuring that it be brought to a successful conclusion within a reasonable time."At a July 23 "full-dress conference" in Honolulu, McNamara was impressed with the "tremendousprogress" that had been made (his words). He called for "phasing out major U.S. advisory and logisticsupport activities." MACV Commander General Paul Harkins estimated that the VC should be"eliminated as a significant force" about a year after the Vietnamese forces then being trained andequipped "became fully operational." McNamara, however, insisted upon "a conservative view":planning should be based on the assumption that "it would take three years instead of one, that is, by thelatter part of 1965." He also "observed that it might be difficult to retain public support for U.S.operations in Vietnam indefinitely," a constant concern. Therefore, it was necessary "to phase out U.S.military involvement." On July 26, the Joint Chiefs ordered preparation of a Comprehensive Plan forSouth Vietnam to implement McNamaras decisions. The stated objective was to ensure that by the endof 1965, the Saigon government would take over "without the need for continued U.S. special militaryassistance." The crucial operating assumption was that "The insurgency will be under control" by the endof 1965.On January 25, 1963, the Comprehensive Plan was presented to the Joint Chiefs. General Harkinss planstated that "the phase-out of the US special military assistance is envisioned as generally occurringduring the period July 1965-June 1966," earlier where feasible.44A few days later, the Chiefs were reassured that this was the right course by a report by a JCSinvestigative team headed by Army Chief of Staff Earle Wheeler that included leading military hawks.The team had been "asked to form a military judgment as to the prospects for a successful conclusion ofthe conflict in a reasonable period of time." Its report was generally upbeat and optimistic: "theGovernment of Vietnam is making steady and favorable progress" in the US-guided military offensive,and the "common people" show increased confidence that "the government is going to triumph." A new"National Campaign Plan" ("Operation Explosion") is in place, assigning "greater initiative" to theSaigon army than in the past, a counterpart to the MACV Comprehensive Plan "designed to prepare thearmed forces of South Vietnam to exercise control of their territory, without our help, by the end ofcalendar year 1965." Prospects for both were hopeful. Their anticipated success would allow a"concurrent phase-out of United States support personnel, leaving a Military Assistance Advisory Group[MAAG] of a strength of about 1,600 personnel." All of this was considered feasible and appropriate by http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s13.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:35 PM]
  • 79. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [13/27]the top military command.Technical suggestions were presented to implement these plans, including a recommendation to relax therules of engagement for US armed helicopters, already deployed "in an escort role, under combatconditions"; they should be allowed to attack "Viet Cong targets of opportunity, in a combat situation,"even if not fired upon. US Farmgate operations, disguised with Vietnam Air Force markings, already hadsuch authority under Kennedys war. Another recommendation was to go beyond "the minor intelligenceand sabotage forays [1 line not declassified]" to "a coordinated program of sabotage, destruction,propaganda, and subversive missions against North Vietnam," keeping the US "wholly in the backgroundwhile at the same time conducting the anti-North Vietnam campaign as a powerful military endeavorrather than as an ancillary [1 line not declassified]." Wheelers team recommended that the US should"intensify" the training of Vietnamese military forces for these missions "and encourage their executionof raids and sabotage missions in North Vietnam, coordinated with other military operations" [anothertwo and a half lines not declassified].Wheeler then reported directly to the President on February 1, informing him "that things were goingwell in Vietnam militarily, but that `Ho Chi Minh was fighting the war for peanuts and if we everexpected to win that affair out there, we had to make him bleed a little bit." The President "was quiteinterested in this," General Wheeler recalled in oral history (July 1964). His dovish advisers were alsoimpressed. In April 1963, on assuming the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Far EasternAffairs, Roger Hilsman proposed to "continue the covert, or at least deniable, operations along thegeneral lines we have been following for some months" against North Vietnam with the objective of"keeping the threat of eventual destruction alive in Hanois mind." But "significant action against NorthVietnam" is unwise on tactical grounds: it should be delayed until "we have demonstrated success in ourcounter-insurgency program." "Premature action" against the North might also "so alarm our friends andallies and a significant segment of domestic opinion that the pressures for neutralization will becomeformidable"; as always, the dread threat of diplomacy must be deflected. With judicious planning,Hilsman said, "I believe we can win in Viet-Nam."45We thus learn that in January 1963, in an atmosphere of great optimism, the military initiatives forwithdrawal went hand-in-hand with plans for escalation of the war within South Vietnam and possiblyintensified operations against North Vietnam. We learn further that "intelligence and sabotage forays"into North Vietnam were already underway -- since mid-1962, according to JFKs National Securityadviser McGeorge Bundy. On December 11, 1963, as the new Administration took over, Forrestalconfirmed that "For some time the Central Intelligence Agency has been engaged in joint clandestineoperations with ARVN against North Vietnam." Journalist William Pfaff reports that in the summer of1962, at a Special Forces encampment north of Saigon he observed a CIA "patrol loading up in anunmarked C-46 with a Chinese pilot in civilian clothes," taking off for a mission in North Vietnam("possibly into China itself"); "Some were Asians, some Americans or Europeans," who "certainly werenot going north to give advice."46The connection between withdrawal and escalation is readily understandable: successful military actionswould make it possible for the GVN to take over the task from the Americans, who could then withdraw http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s13.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:35 PM]
  • 80. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [13/27]with victory secured, satisfying the common intent of the extreme hawks, war manager McNamara, andJFK. Go to the next segment.44 PP, II 175ff.; FRUSV, III 35ff.45 Ibid., 73-94, 191-2. Feb. 1 date, 94-5, 97. Forrestal, whose optimism was more qualified thanWheelers (see below), criticized the latters "rosy euphoria" to the President (97).46 Bundy, Jan.7, 1964; FRUSV-64, 4. Forrestal, FRUSV, IV 699. Pfaff, op. cit. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s13.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:35 PM]
  • 81. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [14/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 14/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThe same natural connection was established in 1968-1969, when an authentic withdrawal was initiated.It was combined with the most devastating and ferocious campaign of mass murder yet undertaken by theUS expeditionary force, though downplayed by the cultural managers in favor of incidents that could betreated as "aberrations" by GIs in the field. The withdrawal was also accompanied by a huge expansionof the assault against the civilian societies of Laos and Cambodia, also suppressed by the loyal media,who falsely accused Richard Nixon of deceiving them about the slaughter and the decisive US role in it,when he fell out of favor. Again, the association is a natural one: withdrawal is conditioned on victory.47Not everyone was as optimistic as the military command. A few days before the President heardWheelers upbeat report, he received a memorandum from Hilsman and Forrestal (January 25) that wasmore qualified. They condemned the press for undue pessimism and underplaying US success, andagreed that "The war in South Vietnam is clearly going better than it was a year ago." They praisedARVNs "increased aggressiveness" resulting from the US military escalation, reporting that GVNcontrol now extended to over half the rural population (compared with 8 percent under VC control), aconsiderable gain through late 1962. But "the negative side of the ledger is still awesome." The VC haveincreased their regular forces, recruiting locally and supplied locally, and are "extremely effective.""Thus the conclusion seems inescapable that the Viet Cong could continue the war effort at the presentlevel, or perhaps increase it, even if the infiltration routes were completely closed." "Our overalljudgment, in sum, is that we are probably winning, but certainly more slowly than we had hoped." Theymade a variety of technical recommendations to implement the counterinsurgency program moreefficiently, with more direct US involvement; and to improve the efficiency of the US mission toaccelerate the "Progress toward winning the war."48The 1963 assumptions were to come into far more serious question after the US-backed coup thatreplaced the Diem-Nhu regime on November 1. High-level civilian and military officials finally came torecognize that their optimism was based on fraudulent reports. It became increasingly clear that thecrucial condition for the withdrawal plans -- that victory be assured -- no longer obtained. Through 1964,the situation continued to deteriorate. Calls for actions against the North then increased, but on differentgrounds than in early 1963: with the US position collapsing in the South, the last hope was to coerce theDRV to order the southern insurgents to desist. From 1965, the US took the war over directly in theSouth and expanded it to a full-scale attack on the rest of Indochina as well. The dovish alternative wasan "enclave strategy" with the US troop level frozen at under 100,000 men.Returning to the period of optimism, on April 18, 1963, the Director of the State Departments VietnamWorking Group, Chalmers Wood, recommended that "We should veto any further requests for increases[in troop level]...and quietly support McNamaras intention to achieve a significant reduction by the endof the year, provided things go well." He felt that "1,000 military could be pulled out of Saigon tomorrow http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s14.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:38 PM]
  • 82. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [14/27]and things would go better." He recommended "that a substantial number of American military should bepulled out of Viet-Nam by the end of this year, provided we make the progress suggested by [BrigadierRobert] Thompson," the respected head of the British Advisory Mission. Thompson had recommended toMcNamara that "if progress during 1963 continued good," it might be wise to withdraw about 1,000 men.On May 6, McNamara stated that military advisors should be the last category removed, and requested aplan for withdrawal of "1,000 or so personnel late this year [1963] if the situation allows." Secretary ofState Dean Rusk approved (May 13), as did Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Maxwell Taylor (August 20),Kennedys most trusted military adviser. The "fundamental objective" remains unchanged, MichaelForrestal advised the President on August 27: the US must "give wholehearted support to the prosecutionof the war against the Viet Cong terrorists," and "continue assistance to any government in SouthVietnam which shows itself capable of sustaining this effort."49The reference to "any government" relates to the increasing concerns of the Kennedy Administrationover the Diem regime. One problem was that its repression was evoking internal resistance, which wasinterfering with the war effort. Another was that Diem and his brother Nhu, considered "the powerbehind the throne," were pressing their demands for US withdrawal with increasing urgency. On April22, the CIA had reported that Diem and Nhu "were concerned over recent `infringements of Vietnamesesovereignty," and "after building up a strong case, [Diem] plans to confront Ambassador Nolting andUSMACV Chief General Harkins with irrefutable evidence of U.S. responsibility, demanding areduction in the number of U.S. personnel in South Vietnam on the basis that the force is too large andunmanageable." A week earlier, a source (not declassified) had reported that in an April 12 conversation,Nhu "repeated his view that it would be useful to reduce the numbers of Americans by anywhere from500 to 3,000 or 4,000." In a front-page interview in the Washington Post, May 12, Nhu stated that "SouthViet Nam would like to see half of the 12,000 to 13,000 American military stationed here leave thecountry."50Administration planners feared that the GVN pressures for withdrawal of US forces would becomedifficult to resist, a danger enhanced by exploratory GVN efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement withthe North. The skimpy political base for Kennedys war would then erode, and the US would becompelled to withdraw without victory. That option being unacceptable to JFK and his advisers, theSaigon regime had to get on board, or be dismissed. Go to the next segment.47 See AWWA, PEHR, MC.48 FRUSV, III 49-62.49 FRUSV, III 243-5, 193, 270, 295, 591, 659. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s14.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:38 PM]
  • 83. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [14/27]50 Ibid., 246, 223, 294n. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s14.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:38 PM]
  • 84. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [15/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 15/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet7. JFK and Withdrawal: the DénouementBy the end of August, JFK and his most dovish advisers (Averell Harriman, Roger Hilsman, GeorgeBall) agreed that the client government should be overthrown. On August 28, the President "asked theDefense Department to come up with ways of building up the anti-Diem forces in Saigon." He called foractions "which would maximize the chances of the rebel generals" and said, "We should ask AmbassadorLodge and General Harkins how we can build up military forces which would carry out a coup."Harriman said that without a coup, "we cannot win the war" and "must withdraw." Hilsman "agreed thatwe cannot win the war unless Diem is removed," as did Ball, while Robert Kennedy also called forefforts to strengthen the rebel generals. Secretary Rusk warned JFK that "Nhu might call on the NorthVietnamese to help him throw out the Americans." Hilsman urged (August 30) that if Diem and Nhumake any "Political move toward the DRV (such as opening of neutralization negotiations)," or even hintat such moves, we should "Encourage the generals to move promptly with a coup," and undertake"military action" if the DRV tries to counter our actions, letting them "know unequivocally that we shallhit the DRV with all that is necessary to force it to desist," bringing in "U.S. combat forces to assist thecoup group to achieve victory," if necessary. "The important thing is to win the war," Hilsman advisedMcGeorge Bundy; and that meant getting rid of the Saigon regime, which was dragging its feet andlooking for ways out. The President concurred that "our primary objective remains winning war," Ruskcabled to the Saigon Embassy.The CIA had been reporting for months "that Nhu policy was one of ultimate neutralization andunification of Vietnam," in accord with the 1954 Geneva agreements, and continued to warn that "theGVN, the DRV, and the French may have been engaged of late in exploring the possibilities of somekind of North-South rapprochement," which might lead to a GVN demand for US withdrawal(September 26). In a September 30 memorandum, William Sullivan reviewed a long discussion with theFrench Chargé in Saigon and the Canadian and Indian International Control Commission (ICC) officials.They discounted current rumors about North-South dealings, but "all of them insisted that we should notdiscount the possibility of such a deal in the future," perhaps "three or four months," the well-informedFrench Chargé felt. Such reports could only increase the alarm in Washington, intensifying the fear of apeaceful settlement.51Particularly disquieting was a public statement of August 29 by French President Charles de Gaulle,expressing the hope that the Vietnamese "could go ahead with their activities independently of theoutside, in internal peace and unity and in harmony with their neighbors." In a memorandum preparingthe President for a September 2 TV interview with Walter Cronkite, McGeorge Bundy focused JFKsattention on de Gaulles statement, while advising that he continue to "ignore Nosey Charlie." He warnedagainst the "specter of neutralist solution," reviewing de Gaulles apparent belief "in neutralizing http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s15.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:40 PM]
  • 85. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [15/27]Vietnam" and advising JFK to express incomprehension, calling instead for France "to share in the workof resisting Communist aggression in Vietnam." Kennedy followed Bundys advice. When Cronkiteasked about the de Gaulle statement, he responded that the US had "listened" but without interest, indeed,with irritation: What, of course, makes Americans somewhat impatient is that after carrying this load for 18 years, we are glad to get counsel, but we would like a little more assistance, real assistance. But we are going to meet our responsibility anyway. It doesnt do us any good to say, "Well, why dont we all just go home and leave the world to those who are our enemies."Kennedy reiterated his resentment in private. In a White House conference the next day (September 3),he asked "what the French are doing toward assisting the Vietnamese." After being shown a paper on thesubject, "The President commented that the French were trying to get for Vietnam what had been done inLaos, i.e., neutralization," which "was not working in Laos" and was no model for Vietnam. He alsowondered why Walter Lippmann proposed the Laotian model. Asked whether France would protest hiscomments about de Gaulle in the Cronkite interview, "the President said he doubted [French]Ambassador Alphand had the guts to protest." JFK remained adamant in his opposition to a diplomaticsettlement that would entail withdrawal without victory.52The consensus remained that "the war in the countryside is going well now" (Ambassador Lodge,September 11), though discordant notes were being sounded. There was substantial urban unrest, and theDiem government was not considered trustworthy. In a September 11 paper, Hilsman wrote that "TheU.S. policy objective should continue to be the maintenance of a viable, strong and free area in SouthViet-Nam capable of maintaining its independence, successfully resisting Communist aggression, andsusceptible to U.S. influence." Accordingly, "we should tell Diem that we are ready to prosecute ourprogram to annihilate the Viet Cong menace with renewed vigor and that we expect full cooperationfrom him in this endeavor" -- or else. Diem must "focus on winning the war," Hilsman added in aSeptember 16 memorandum.This memorandum outlined a plan that the President had requested in the light of Diems recalcitrance.Delivered to the President on that day, Hilsmans plan stated that "Withdrawal by the U.S. would beimmediately disastrous to the war effort." To attain our "overall objective," which is "to win the waragainst the Viet Cong," we must support "what helps win the war" and "oppose" what "interferes with thewar effort," in accord with the "policy guideline" that the President had stated on September 12 (see page46).53 Go to the next segment.51 FRUSV, IV 1ff., 27, 50f., 75-8, 89, 295f., 325. On Hilsmans later interpretation of his Aug. 30 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s15.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:40 PM]
  • 86. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [15/27]memorandum, see next chapter, n. 21.52 Ibid., 55n, 81f., 94, 100.53Ibid., 171, 177-9, 221ff. Also Gibbons, US Government, 177f., with additional detail (and slightlydifferent wording, used here). http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s15.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:40 PM]
  • 87. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [16/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 16/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThe general assessment was that the war could not be won "if Nhu remains in power" (JosephMendenhall, also considered a dove). Worse yet, Nhu "has frequently claimed that the Americanpresence must be reduced," the CIA reported, and was continuing his dealings with the North, whichmight lead to a peaceful settlement, undermining Kennedys war policies.The basic principle, unquestioned, is that we must "focus on winning the war." On September 14,Harriman wrote to Lodge, making the point unmistakeable: "I can assure you that from the President ondown everybody is determined to support you and the country team in winning the war against the VietCong. There may be some differences in opinion or in emphasis as to how it is to be done, but there areno quitters here."54In particular, JFK is no quitter. There is not a phrase in the internal record to suggest that this judgmentby a trusted high-level Kennedy adviser, at the dovish extreme, should be qualified in any way.We now approach the final weeks of JFKs presidency, the last opportunity to determine his intentions.We therefore pay close attention to his (limited) involvement in discussion and decision-making.On September 17, after a meeting with his NSC advisers to discuss the plan for military victory thatHilsman had prepared, President Kennedy instructed Ambassador Lodge to pressure Diem to "geteveryone back to work and get them to focus on winning the war," repeating his regular emphasis onvictory. It was particularly important to show military progress because "of need to make effective casewith Congress for continued prosecution of the effort," the President added, expressing his constantconcern that congressional support for his commitment to military victory was weak. "To meet theseneeds," he informed Lodge, he was sending his top aides McNamara and Taylor to Vietnam. Theirmission was to appraise "the military and paramilitary effort to defeat the Viet Cong," JFK instructedMcNamara, and to ensure "the progress of the contest," a matter of "the first importance." There havebeen "heartening results" until recently, but "future effectiveness" requires new actions by the GVN andWashington. The goal remains "the winning of the war," the President again emphasized, adding that"The way to confound the press is to win the war." Like Congress, the press was an enemy because of itslack of enthusiasm for a war to victory and its occasional calls for diplomacy.Taylor proposed that he and McNamara present Diem with a fixed time scale within which "the war mustbe won." According to McGeorge Bundys minutes, "The President did not say `yes or `no to thisproposal," apparently unwilling to be bound by any commitment to withdraw.55McNamara and Taylor were encouraged by what they found. Taylor informed Diem that he was"convinced that the Viet Cong insurgency in the north and center can be reduced to little more than http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s16.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:42 PM]
  • 88. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [16/27]sporadic incidents by the end of 1964" and the war effort everywhere should be "completed by the end of1965." On October 2, Taylor and McNamara presented this analysis to the President, noting that "Themilitary campaign has made great progress and continues to progress." On these assumptions, theypresented a series of recommendations, three of which were later authorized (watered down a bit) inNSAM 263: 1. "An increase in the military tempo" throughout the country so that the military campaign in the Northern and Central areas will be over by the end of 1964, and in the South (the Delta) by the end of 1965. 2. Vietnamese should be trained to take over "essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel" by the end of 1965, so that "It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time." 3. In accordance with point two, "the Defense Department should announce in the very near future presently prepared plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. This action should be explained in low key as an initial step in a long-term program to replace U.S. personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort."Their report stressed again that the "overriding objective" is victory, a matter "vital to United Statessecurity." They repeated that withdrawal could not be too long delayed: "any significant slowing in therate of progress would surely have a serious effect on U.S. popular support for the U.S. effort." Theyexpressed their belief "that the U.S. part of the task can be completed by the end of 1965," at which timemilitary victory would have been assured. The withdrawal plans were crucially qualified in the usualway: "No further reductions should be made until the requirements of the 1964 campaign become firm,"that is, until battlefield success is assured.56 Go to the next segment.54FRUSV, IV 248, 213, 209. For extensive discussion of the concerns in Washington over neutralizationand forced withdrawal, see Kahin, Intervention.55 Gibbons, US Government, 180f.; FRUSV, IV 252f., 278-81.56 Ibid., 330, 336ff. PP, II 751-66; 187, 756. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s16.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:42 PM]
  • 89. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [17/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 17/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetNote that JFK and his advisers consistently regarded lack of popular support for the war and GVNinitiatives toward political settlement not as an opportunity for withdrawal, but rather as a threat tovictory.The National Security Council met the same day to consider these proposals. The Presidents role was, asusual, marginal. He repeated that "the major problem was with U.S. public opinion" and again balked atthe time scale. He opposed a commitment to withdraw some forces in 1963 because "if we were not ableto take this action by the end of this year, we would be accused of being over optimistic." McNamara, incontrast, "saw great value in this sentence in order to meet the view of Senator Fulbright and others thatwe are bogged down forever in Vietnam." The phrase was left as "a part of the McNamara-Taylor reportrather than as predictions of the President," who thus remained uncommitted to withdrawal, at hisinsistence.A public statement was released to the press, presenting the McNamara-Taylor judgment that "the majorpart of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965, although there may be a continuingrequirement for a limited number of U.S. training personnel," and that the training program "should haveprogressed to the point" where 1000 men can be withdrawn by the end of the year. The statementrepeated the standard position that the US will work with the GVN "to deny this country to Communismand to suppress the externally stimulated and supported insurgency of the Viet Cong as promptly aspossible," continuing with "Major U.S. assistance in support of this military effort," which "is neededonly until the insurgency has been suppressed or until the national security forces of the Government ofSouth Viet-Nam are capable of suppressing it."57At a White House conference on October 5, the President directed that the decision to remove 1000 USadvisers "should not be raised formally with Diem. Instead the action should be carried out routinely aspart of our general posture of withdrawing people when they are no longer needed."The results of this meeting were formalized as NSAM 263 (October 11), a brief statement in which "ThePresident approved the three military recommendations cited above...," weakened by one change: that"no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. militarypersonnel by the end of 1963." The final provision of NSAM 263 is JFKs personal approval of atelegram instructing Ambassador Lodge to "increase effectiveness of war effort" along with training andarming of new forces, so as to enhance the prospects for victory, on which withdrawal was conditioned.It is necessary, the telegram adds, to overcome the "crisis of confidence among Vietnamese people whichis eroding popular support for GVN that is vital for victory," and the "crisis of confidence on the part ofthe American public and Government," who also do not see how "our actions are related to ourfundamental objective of victory."58 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s17.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:44 PM]
  • 90. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [17/27]Note that read literally, NSAM 263 says very little. It approves the McNamara-Taylor recommendationsto intensify the war and military training so that "It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S.personnel" by the end of 1965, and includes JFKs personal instructions to Lodge to intensify militaryaction to achieve "our fundamental objective of victory." It does not call for implementing a 1,000 manwithdrawal, but rather endorses the third point of the McNamara-Taylor proposal concerning plans forsuch withdrawal "as an initial step in a long-term program" to be conducted "without impairment of thewar effort," deleting their call for formal announcement of these plans.Presumably, the intent was to implement the withdrawal plans if military conditions allow, but that intentis unstated. The fact might be borne in mind in light of elaborate later efforts to read great significanceinto nuances of phrasing so as to demonstrate a dramatic change in policy with the Kennedy-Johnsontransition. Adopting these interpretive techniques, we would conclude that NSAM 263 is almost vacuous.I stress that is not my interpretation; I assume the obvious unstated intention, only suggesting that otherdocuments be treated in the same reasonable manner -- in which case, widely-held beliefs will quicklyevaporate.As noted, the basic decisions were made public at once. The picture presented then requires nosignificant modification in light of the huge mass of documents now available, though these make muchmore clear the Presidents unwillingness to commit himself to the withdrawal recommended by his warmanagers, his concern that domestic opinion might not stay the course, his insistence that withdrawal beconditioned on military victory, and his orders to step up the military effort and to "maximize thechances of the rebel generals" to replace the Diem regime by one that will "focus on winning" and notentertain thoughts of US withdrawal and peaceful settlement. Go to the next segment.57 FRUSV, IV 350f. Public Papers of the Presidents, 1963, 759-60.58 FRUSV, IV 370, 395-6, 371ff. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s17.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:44 PM]
  • 91. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [18/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 18/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetRobert Kennedy also had reservations about making the withdrawal plan public. He felt that we were "sodeeply committed to the support of the effort in Vietnam that Diem will not be greatly influenced" by theannounced plan (one of its purposes being to press Diem onwards with the war effort). At a White HouseStaff meeting on October 7, Bundy noted that reservations had been voiced about the withdrawal,expressing his surprise that "some people were taking as `pollyanna-ish the `McNamara-Taylorstatement that we could pull out of Vietnam in two years." He stated that the "general line" for aforthcoming presidential press conference "will be that in two years the Vietnamese will be able to finishthe job without US military forces on the scene -- a position considered reasonable by everyone aroundthe table" (Bundy, Forrestal, Generals Taylor and Clifton [JFKs military aide] are mentioned).59Through October, problems with the GVN continued to mount. Nhu openly called for the Americans todepart, saying that he and his brother had opposed the American intervention at "the time of greatestdanger" in 1961-1962, and now wanted US troops out completely. The US should only provide aid, hedemanded. Ambassador Lodge warned that "we should consider a request to withdraw as a growingpossibility."Another problem was the lack of "effectiveness of GVN in its relation to its own people." Asked aboutthis, Lodge responded in an "Eyes only for the President" communication that "Viet-Nam is not athoroughly strong police state...because, unlike Hitlers Germany, it is not efficient" and is thus unable tosuppress the "large and well-organized underground opponent strongly and ever-freshly motivated byvigorous hatred." The Vietnamese "appear to be more than ever anxious to be left alone," and thoughthey "are said to be capable of great violence on occasion," "there is no sight of it at the present time,"another impediment to US efforts. The same concerns were expressed about the Indonesian Generals atthe same time, though they proved equal to the task, gaining much esteem for their Nazi-styleruthlessness. The Saigon Generals, however, were never able to meet Washington standards.60Small wonder that JFK was unwilling to commit himself to the McNamara-Taylor withdrawal proposal.Note that the same defects of the US clients underlie the critique of the strategic hamlet program byKennedy doves (see page 54).Intelligence continued to report that the optimistic projections were dubious while pressures forunification and neutralization remained strong. Paul Kattenburg, at the dovish fringe, reported yetanother problem: "Chemical defoliation and crop destruction operations are effective weapons againstthe VC," but "Present approval procedures are too cumbersome" and "The psychological and civic actionaspects of the operation are not particularly good." The need is for more efficiency and better PR.61Washingtons coup plans continued, with Ambassador Lodge in operational command. The only http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s18.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:47 PM]
  • 92. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [18/27]hesitation was fear of failure. JFK thought that we "could lose our entire position in Southeast Asiaovernight" if the coup plans failed. When the coup finally took place on November 1, replacing Diemand Nhu (who were killed) by a military regime, the President praised Lodge effusively for his "fine job"and "leadership," an "achievement...of the greatest importance" that "is recognized here throughout theGovernment." With the generals now in power, "our primary emphasis should be on effectiveness ratherthan upon external appearances," the President added. We must help the coup regime to confront "thereal problems of winning the contest against the Communists and holding the confidence of its ownpeople." The "ineffectiveness, loss of popular confidence, and the prospect of defeat that were decisive inshaping our relations to the Diem regime" are now a thing of the past, the President hoped, thanks toLodges inspired leadership and coup-management, with its gratifying outcome (November 6).62Two weeks before Kennedys assassination, there is not a phrase in the voluminous internal record thateven hints at withdrawal without victory. JFK urges that everyone "focus on winning the war";withdrawal is conditioned on victory, and motivated by domestic discontent with Kennedys war. Thestakes are considered enormous. Nothing substantial changes as the mantle passes to LBJ. Go to the next segment.59 Ibid., 359, 387.60 Ibid., 385-6, 402. Ch. 5.61 FRUSV, IV418-20, 448.62 Ibid., 472, 579-80. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s18.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:13:47 PM]
  • 93. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [19/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 19/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetThe post-coup situation had positive and negative aspects from the point of view of the President and hisadvisers. On the positive side, they hoped that the ruling generals would now at last focus on victory asthe President had demanded, gain popular support, and end the irritating calls for US withdrawal andmoves towards a peaceful settlement. On the other hand, there was disarray at all levels, while at home,advocacy of diplomacy was not stilled. The dovish advisers stressed the need to counter these tendencies.Mendenhall warned Hilsman about the danger posed by suggestions in the New York Times (November6, 10) "that the U.S. should undertake international negotiations for settlement of the Vietnam problem."He proposed a private meeting with the editors "to try to set them straight on the situation in Vietnam andon U.S. policy regarding Vietnam." On November 13, Forrestal informed Times editor Robert Kleimanthat "it would be folly" to consider a negotiated settlement: "South Vietnam was still not strong enoughto approach the bargaining table with any hope of coming away whole," and "responsible Vietnamese inVietnam" would probably view such prospects as "a complete sellout by the U.S." He advised Bundy thatwe should prepare "to counter" further efforts "to peddle" this idea in the media.63Meanwhile, evidence that undermined the optimistic assessments was becoming harder to ignore. Aweek after the coup, State Department Intelligence, with the concurrence of the CIA, reported that by lateOctober the military situation had sharply deteriorated, predicting "unfavorable end-1963 values" for itsstatistical factors. The new government confirmed that the GVN "had been losing the war against the VCin the Delta for some time because it had been losing the population." A top-level meeting was held inHonolulu on November 20 to consider the next steps. The US mission in Vietnam recommended that thewithdrawal plans be maintained, the new government being "warmly disposed toward the U.S." andoffering "opportunities to exploit that we never had before." Kennedys plans to escalate the assaultagainst the southern resistance could now be implemented, with a stable regime finally in place.McNamara, ever cautious, stressed that "South Vietnam is under tremendous pressure from the VC,"noting a sharp increase in VC incidents after the coup, and urged that "We must be prepared to devoteenough resources to this job of winning the war to be certain of accomplishing it..." At an 8 AM WhiteHouse meeting on November 22, Bundy was informed that "for the first time" military reporting was"realistic about the situation in the Delta."64Before proceeding, let us have a look at what was publicly available in the press at once. The topic meritsa brief review, in the light of later allegations about media suppression. That distortion and suppressionby the media are common is not in doubt. But not in this case, it turns out. I will keep to the New YorkTimes.The October 2 McNamara-Taylor military recommendations that are (largely) authorized in NSAM 263were outlined in the lead story in the New York Times the next day. The story correctly describes theNational Security Council decisions, and is accompanied by the text of the White House statement. In http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s19.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:49 PM]
  • 94. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [19/27]conformity to the internal record, the withdrawal plans are attributed to McNamara and Taylor, not JFK.In a news conference of October 31, published the next day, JFK maintained the caution he showed ininternal discussion, distancing himself from the withdrawal plans: As you know, when Secretary McNamara and General Taylor came back, they announced that we would expect to withdraw 1,000 men from South Vietnam before the end of the year... If we are able to do that, that will be our schedule. I think the first unit, the first contingent, would be 250 men who are not involved in what might be called frontline operations. It would be our hope to lessen the number of Americans there by 1,000 as the training intensified and is carried on in South Vietnam... As far as other units, we will have to make that judgment based on what the military correlation of forces may be.He went on to laud his military build-up, which would soon permit the armed forces to deploy sevendivisions quickly, a crucial factor in the "military correlation of forces."On the same day, a front-page story reported JFKs hopes to withdraw 1000 men by the end of the year asthe training of South Vietnamese is intensified. On November 13, Jack Raymond reported that DefenseOfficials say that the 1000-man withdrawal plans remain unchanged. Two days later, he reported that at anews conference, while keeping the "official objectives announced on October 2 to withdraw most of thetroops by the end of 1965," Kennedy weakened the withdrawal plans, reducing the estimate for 1963 to"several hundred," pending the outcome of the Honolulu meeting. JFK again emphasized the need to"intensify the struggle." A front-page story the next day reported the announcement by Major-GeneralCharles Timmes that "The withdrawal of 1,000 United States servicemen from South Vietnam will startDecember 3." On November 21, the official statement from the Honolulu meeting was reported,reaffirming the plan to withdraw 1000 men by January 1. A December 2 item reported General Harkinssannouncement that 300 would leave the next day. On December 4, a front-page story announced thewithdrawal of 220 GIs, the first step in withdrawal of 1000 troops by Christmas.65In short, what was public at once accurately and prominently reflects the internal record that has nowbeen revealed, including some indication of JFKs personal hesitations over the withdrawal plansrecommended by his advisers. Go to the next segment.63 Ibid., 581ff., 592ff.64 Ibid., 582f., 596, 608ff. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s19.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:49 PM]
  • 95. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [19/27]65 Tad Szulc, "Vietnam Victory by the End of 65 Envisaged by U.S.," NYT, Oct. 3; transcript of pressconference, NYT, Nov. 1; Joseph Loftus, NYT, Nov. 1. Jack Raymond, NYT, Nov. 13; "G.I. Return Waitson Vietnam Talk," Nov. 15, with transcript of News Conference. AP, "1,000 U.S. Troops to LeaveVietnam," NYT, Nov. 16; David Halberstam, NYT, Nov. 21; AP, NYT, Dec. 2;Hedrick Smith, NYT, Dec.4, 1963. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s19.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:13:49 PM]
  • 96. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [20/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 20/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet8. The Presidential TransitionAt the Honolulu meeting of November 20, a draft was prepared (signed by McGeorge Bundy) for whatbecame NSAM 273, adopted after the assassination but intended for JFK with the expectation that hewould approve it in essentials, as was the norm. Top advisers agreed; Hilsman made only "minorchanges." The State Department history states that the draft "was almost identical to the final paper,"differing only in paragraph 7.NSAM 273 was declassified in May 1978; the November 20 draft, on January 31, 1991. The draft is notpublished in the State Department history, but its assessment is quite accurate. Both documents reiteratethe basic wording of the early October documents, and call for maintaining military and economicassistance at least at previous levels. On withdrawal, the NSAM approved by Johnson is identical withthe draft prepared for Kennedy. It reads: "The objectives of the United States with respect to thewithdrawal of U.S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2,1963," referring to the statement of US policy at the NSC meeting, formalized without essential changeas NSAM 263. As for paragraph 7, the draft and final version are, respectively, as follows: Draft: With respect to action against North Vietnam, there should be a detailed plan for the development of additional Government of Vietnam resources, especially for sea-going activity, and such planning should indicate the time and investment necessary to achieve a wholly new level of effectiveness in this field of action. NSAM 273: Planning should include different levels of possible increased activity, and in each instance there should be estimates of such factors as: q A. Resulting damage to North Vietnam; q B. The plausibility of denial; q C. Possible North Vietnamese retaliation; q D. Other international reaction. Plans should be submitted promptly for approval by higher authority. (Action: State, DOD, and CIA)The final phrase is attached to other paragraphs.66There is no relevant difference between the two documents, except that the LBJ version is weaker and http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s20.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:03 PM]
  • 97. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [20/27]more evasive, dropping the call for "a wholly new level of effectiveness in this field of action"; furtheractions are reduced to "possible." The reason why paragraph 7 refers to "additional" or "possibleincreased" activity we have already seen: such operations had been underway since the Kennedyoffensive of 1962, apparently with direct participation of US personnel and foreign mercenaries.As reviewed earlier, the military had advocated in January 1963 that operations against the North becontinued (perhaps intensified) as a counterpart to the plans of the hawks for withdrawal after victory,with the agreement of Hilsman and reportedly the President. No direct US government involvement isproposed in NSAM 273 beyond what was already underway under JFK. Subsequent plans developed bythe DOD and CIA call for "Intensified sabotage operations in North Vietnam by Vietnamese personnel,"with the US involved only in intelligence collection (U-2, electronics) and "psychological operations"(leaflet drops, "phantom covert operations," "black and white radio broadcasts").67These two NSAMs (263 in October, 273 on November 26 with a November 20 draft written forKennedy) are the centerpiece of the thesis that Kennedy planned to withdraw without victory, a decisionat once reversed by LBJ (and perhaps the cause of the assassination). They have been the subject ofmany claims and charges. Typical of the 1992 revival is Oliver Stones Address to the National PressClub alleging that John Newmans study "makes it very clear President Kennedy signaled his intention towithdraw from Vietnam in a variety of ways and put that intention firmly on the record with NationalSecurity Action Memorandum 263 in October of 1963," while LBJ "reverse[d] the NSAM" with NSAM273. Arthur Schlesinger claimed that after the assassination, "President Johnson, listening to PresidentKennedys more hawkish advisers and believing that he was doing what President Kennedy would havedone, issued National Security Action Memorandum 273 calling for the maintenance of Americanmilitary programs in Vietnam `at levels as high as before -- reversing the Kennedy withdrawal policy."The co-author (with Stone) of the screenplay JFK, Zachary Sklar, also citing Newmans book, claimsfurther that the draft prepared for Kennedy "says that the U.S. will train the South Vietnamese to carryout covert military operations against North Vietnam" while "In the final document, signed by Johnson, itstates that U.S. forces themselves will carry out these covert military operations," leading to the TonkinGulf incident, which "was an example of precisely that kind of covert operation carried out by U.S.forces" (his emphasis).68Such claims, which are common, are groundless, indeed are refuted by the internal record. Newmansbook adds nothing relevant to the available record, which gives no hint of any intention by JFK towithdraw without victory -- quite the contrary -- and reveals no "reversal" in NSAM 273. The call formaintenance of aid is in the draft of NSAM 273 prepared for Kennedy, and was also at the core of histentative withdrawal plans, conditioned on victory and "Major U.S. assistance" to assure it. Furthermore,Kennedys more dovish -- not "more hawkish" -- advisers approved and continued to urge LBJ to followwhat they understood to be JFKs policy, rejecting any thought of withdrawal without victory. The finalversion of NSAM 273 does not state that US forces would carry out covert operations in any new way;nor did they, in the following months. There were covert attacks on North Vietnamese installations justprior to the Tonkin Gulf incident, but they were carried out by South Vietnamese forces, according to theinternal record. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s20.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:03 PM]
  • 98. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [20/27]The two versions of NSAM 273 differ in no relevant way, apart from the weakening of paragraph 7 inthe final version. Furthermore, the departure from NSAM 263 is slight, and readily explained in terms ofchanging assessments. Efforts to detect nuances and hidden implications have no basis in fact, and ifpursued, could easily be turned into a (meaningless) "proof" that LBJ toned down Kennedyaggressiveness.The call in paragraph 7 for consideration of further ARVN operations against the North is readilyexplained in terms of the two basic features of the post-coup situation: the feeling among Kennedys warplanners that with the Diem regime gone, the US at last had a regime committed to Kennedys war in theSouth, offering new "opportunities to exploit"; and the increasing concern about the military situation inthe South, undermining earlier optimism. The former factor made it possible to consider extension ofARVN operations; the latter made it more important to extend them. In subsequent months, Kennedysplanners (now directing Johnsons war) increasingly inclined towards operations against the North as away to overcome their inability to win the war in the South, leading finally to the escalation of 1965,undertaken largely to "drive the DRV out of its reinforcing role and obtain its cooperation in bringing anend to the Viet Cong insurgency," using "its directive powers to make the Viet Cong desist" (Taylor,November 27, 1964).69 Go to the next segment.66FRUSV, IV 637ff. "Draft, National Security Action Memorandum No. ___," McGeorge Bundy,declassified 1/31/91.67 FRUSV-64, 4-5; Joint Draft plan, the basis for Operations Plan (OPLAN) 34A-64, Jan. 3. Ibid., 28f.68See note 38. Schlesinger, "`JFK: Truth and Fiction," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 10, 1992. OnSchlesingers efforts to establish the reversal, see ch. 2.2.69 PP, III 668-9. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s20.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:03 PM]
  • 99. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [21/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 21/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet9. LBJ and the Kennedy DovesKennedys more dovish advisers recommended the policies that Johnson pursued, and generally approvedof them until the 1965 escalation, often beyond. They lost no time in making clear that JFKscommitment to victory would not be abandoned. On December 10, Forrestal, Ball, Harriman, andHilsman, reiterating JFKs consistent stand, assured Lodge that "we are against neutralism and want towin the war." The same unwavering commitment was reiterated by George Ball, perhaps the mostconsistent dove among them. On December 16, he informed Lodge that "Nothing is further from USGmind than `neutral solution for Vietnam. We intend to win." A year later (November 1964), havingreturned to a more active role in Vietnam planning, Ball held that the Saigon regime must continue toreceive US aid until the Viet Cong is defeated and agreed that "the struggle would be a long one, evenwith the DRV out of it." In July 1965, he advised LBJ that "Securing the Mekong Valley will be criticalin any long-run solution, whether by the partition of Laos with Thai-U.S. forces occupying the westernhalf or by some cover arrangement." These recommendations illustrate what "dove" meant in Camelot.70Ball and other JFK doves continued to support Johnsons policies, which they regarded as a continuationof Kennedys. Writing to the Secretary of State on May 31, 1964, Ball praised "the Presidents wisecaution" and refusal to "act hastily." Against that background, Ball added, he and Alexis Johnson had"considerably slowed down the headlong crystallization of a plan for enlarging the war" developed byother advisers, including some considered doves.71Balls later reflections on Kennedys attitudes are also worth noting. He writes that he had "stronglyopposed" Kennedys November 1961 decision to commit US forces to South Vietnam, predicting to himthat it would drag the US into a morass with "three hundred thousand men in the paddies and jungles."These pessimistic predictions "were not words the President wanted to hear," and he responded "with anovertone of asperity" in terms that Ball says he never quite understood. "Kennedys reaction deterred mefrom expressing opposition to the war until after the Tonkin Gulf incident" in August 1964, Ball adds.Ball notes that had he lived, "Kennedy would almost certainly have received the same advice andpressures from the same group of advisers who persuaded Johnson to deepen Americas involvement."He has no clear opinion as to how JFK would have reacted. Noting further that "some historians haveadduced bits of evidence to show that President Kennedy had reserved in his own mind the possibility ofwithdrawal," Ball writes that he can "venture no opinion." Note that the most he contemplates is that JFKmight have had the possibility in mind.72In his attempt to show that JFK favored withdrawal, John Newman claims that Ball, who replaced themore dovish Chester Bowles as Under Secretary of State in November 1961, "was acceptable toKennedy because he too opposed sending U.S. combat troops to Vietnam" -- as doubtless he did, along http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s21.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:05 PM]
  • 100. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [21/27]with much of the top military. But Newmans unsupported judgment about Kennedys reasons does notquite square with Balls own.73Bowles became Ambassador at Large, then Ambassador to India. Like John Kenneth Galbraith andothers who favored political settlement over military victory, he was distanced from policy planning byKennedy, and scarcely appears in the internal record. There was no place for such views in JFKsVietnam programs.Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield is another interesting case. A regular participant in high-levelmeetings with a special interest in Asian affairs, he is depicted in much later commentary as an advocateof withdrawal to whom Kennedy confided his secret plans; for Schlesinger and Newman, this claim takeson central importance, as we shall see. Neither the internal nor public record treats it kindly.Like other influential Senators, Mansfield had been concerned over the consequences of Kennedys war.His objections, however, were tactical and qualified. There was no real US interest at stake that wouldjustify spending "countless American lives and billions of dollars to maintain an illusion of freedom in adevastated South Viet Nam," he felt. It would be dangerous to find ourselves "bogged down" in a regionthat is "peripheral to [US] interests," he advised JFK in August 1963. Mansfield therefore suggested that"rhetorical flourishes" be abandoned and that "We should stress not the vague `vital importance of thearea to the U.S.," but its "relatively limited importance"; and that as a warning to Diem, who was notfighting the war successfully, some 1500 military advisers should be withdrawn "as a symbolic gesture,to make clear that we mean business when we say that there are some circumstances in which thiscommitment will be discontinued." The first of these proposals JFK flatly rejected; as we have seen, tothe end he stressed the "vital importance" of victory. Whether he accepted the second is a matter ofinterpretation of hidden intentions: if so, it is hardly comforting to the withdrawal thesis. Go to the next segment.70 FRUSV, IV 695, 710. PP, III 242, 237; IV 618.71 FRUSV-64, 401.72 Ball, Past, 366f.; New York Review, Feb. 13, 1992 (virtually the same).73 Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 141. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s21.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:05 PM]
  • 101. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [22/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 22/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetAfter the assassination, Mansfield advised LBJ to seek a general truce "at a price commensurate withAmerican interests." He recommended "an effort to strengthen the hold of the Saigon government onthose parts of South Viet Nam which it now controls," instead of a hopeless "chase of the Viet Cong allover the land." Mansfield was particularly satisfied by Lyndon Johnsons continuation of Kennedyspolicies. At a meeting of the National Security Council on April 3, 1964, LBJ rejected Senator Morsesproposal for "using SEATO and the UN to achieve a peaceful settlement," informing him that theAdministration accepted McNamaras views that withdrawal or neutralization would lead to aCommunist takeover and therefore remain unacceptable options. Mansfield approved, urging "that thePresidents policy toward Vietnam was the only one we could follow." He firmly rejected the withdrawaloption and the diplomatic moves counselled by Morse.Mansfield continued to have tactical reservations, however. In December 1964 he advised LBJ "thatAmerican and Western interests are best served by the frugal use of American resources to forestallChinese political and military domination of the area," and opposed "a vast increase in the commitment."Commenting on Mansfields position, McGeorge Bundy informed the President that there was only "adifference in emphasis between him and us, but certainly no difference in fundamental purpose." Thatseems accurate. A few weeks later (January 3, 1965), Mansfield publicly supported "the Presidentsdesire neither to withdraw nor carry the war to North Vietnam," the Pentagon Papers analyst observes.Once the bombing of the North began and a huge US expeditionary force was deployed, Mansfielddemanded obedience. When the first major protest against the bombing of the North took place inOctober 1965, he condemned "the sense of utter irresponsibility" of those who dared question theviolence of the state.74Mansfields reaction was hardly unusual. To cite another prominent example, House Speaker Thomas(Tip) ONeil of Massachusetts, later portrayed as a strong opponent of the war, refused in April 1965 toallow a delegation of university professors from his constituency even to enter his office to raisequestions about his leaders war policies.JFKs top advisers (McNamara, Bundy, Rusk) advised LBJ in January 1964 to reject Mansfieldsrecommendations and to keep to Kennedys more militant policies. McNamara held that any sign ofhesitation by the US "would inevitably mean a new government in Saigon that would in short orderbecome Communist-dominated," with consequences for the US position in Asia "and indeed in other keyareas of the world" that "are extremely serious"; the stakes are "so high" that "we must go on bendingevery effort to win." Kennedys close associate Theodore Sorenson, still on the White House staff, agreed"that the partition or neutralization of South Vietnam today, or even our proposing such partition orneutralization, would, under present conditions, lead to a Communist takeover in that country, aweakening of our prestige and security throughout Asia and an increase in the possibilities of a major http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s22.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:07 PM]
  • 102. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [22/27]military involvement in that area." The only merit Sorenson saw in a proposal for neutralization of all ofVietnam or a cease-fire would be that rejection by the Communists would facilitate the US war effort. Healso urged that LBJ reiterate the standard theme that it is up to the South Vietnamese to win the war, sothat the onus will be on them, not us, if things fall apart.75In brief, Kennedys top advisers, including the most dovish among them, sensed no change at thetransition and lent their support to Johnson. Some praised his "wise caution," while others, as we seedirectly, called for more aggressive action. That reaction is natural, given their familiarity with theinternal record, which shows no deviation on JFKs part from Harrimans judgment: "there are no quittershere."Of course, in thousands of pages of documents one can find occasional variation in wording and nuance.Furthermore, this is history, not quantum physics: judgments must always be qualified. But suchreservations aside, the internal record largely confirms what was made public in the fall of 1963 on theissue of withdrawal, and portrays JFK only as less willing than his top advisers to commit himself towithdrawal -- and surely not without victory. Furthermore, the consistency of the record in this regard,from every perspective, is quite striking. Go to the next segment.74 FRUSV, III 587-8, IV 691-2; FRUSV-64, 222f., 1010f. PP, III 263. APNW, 370-1.75 Gibbons, US Government, 215f.; emphases in original. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s22.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:07 PM]
  • 103. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [23/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 23/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet10. "A Hostile Territory"Continuing with the internal record into the Johnson Administration, on November 27 Hilsman informeda representative of the Saigon government that the withdrawal plans remained in force though "we shallkeep in Viet-Nam whatever forces are needed for victory." On December 2, General Harkins announcedwithdrawal of 300 military personnel the next day and another 700 in the following weeks, "making atotal reduction in force of 1000 before the end of 1963" (reported in the press, as noted).An internal DOD memorandum of March 2, 1964, states that "In December 1000 men came home,"including "two military police units whose airport guard duty had been taken over by Vietnamese trainedfor that purpose." It called for continued training missions so that US troops can be withdrawn. Thedetails of what happened are murky. But the question is academic, in light of radically revisedassessments of the military situation, which canceled the assumptions on which the withdrawal plans hadbeen conditioned.The first report prepared for LBJ (November 23) opened with this "Summary Assessment": "The outlookis hopeful. There is better assurance than under Diem that the war can be won. We are pulling out 1,000American troops by the end of 1963." Apart from a serious budgetary deficit, the "main concern iswhether the generals can hold together until victory has been achieved." The next day, however, CIADirector John McCone informed the President that the CIA now regarded the situation as "somewhatmore serious" than had been thought, with "a continuing increase in Viet Cong activity since the first ofNovember" (the coup). Subsequent reports only deepened the gloom.76On December 6, the CIA reported that VC activity had increased since mid-1963, "reaching record peakssince the coup" and becoming "more effective." The DOD confirmed this "disturbing analysis of thecurrent military situation," urging pressures against North Vietnam. Estimates of past success weresharply reduced. Forrestal informed the President that recent reports were "rather alarming," though theruling generals offered better prospects than the Diem regime. Previous reports had been "toooptimistic." Pentagon Intelligence (DIA) informed McNamara that "The Viet Cong by and large retain defacto control of much of the countryside and have steadily increased the overall intensity of the effort"since February 1963, reaching an "all-time high" in "incidents and armed attacks" after the November 1coup. Though "only 914 persons are known to have been introduced into the RVN during 1963" andthere were an estimated 27,000 VC casualties in 1963 through November, VC force levels remainedstable, indicating that casualties were being replaced "through extensive local recruitment." The CIAadded that "the VC have made definite progress," with the Strategic Hamlet Program "particularly hardhit in certain provinces." The CIA was unsure whether the problems "are only now coming to light underthe countrys new management, or whether it is the result of the current lack of firm leadership at the http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s23.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:11 PM]
  • 104. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [23/27]local and national levels" (December 16). In critical Long An province near Saigon, barely more than 10percent of the Hamlets "previously reported as completed" were actually functional. By December 21,General Krulak, previously an optimist, warned the Joint Chiefs of the seriousness of the situation,judging the governments position to be "much weaker now than two to six months ago," when thewithdrawal option seemed feasible to them.77Krulak was reporting on a December 19-20 McNamara visit to Saigon. Under Secretary of State WilliamSullivan added that reports by US military and province advisers "were uniformly discouraging andindicated a considerable falsification of data by the previous Vietnamese regime." "The visit was asobering one," he added. Reporting to the President, McNamara described the situation as "verydisturbing": "Current trends, unless reversed in the next 2-3 months, will lead to neutralization at bestand more likely to a Communist-controlled state." The situation had been "deteriorating in thecountryside since July to a far greater extent than we realized" and Viet Cong progress since the coup"has been great." In light of this sharply changed assessment, McNamara said nothing about withdrawal,recommending only that "U.S. resources and personnel cannot usefully be substantially increased,"though we should be "preparing for more forceful moves if the situation does not show early signs ofimprovement" (his emphasis).McCone agreed that "indices on progress of the war turned unfavorable for the GVN" about July 1963,moving "very sharply against the GVN" after the coup. He reported an estimate of 1550 infiltrators fromNorth Vietnam for 1963 (roughly the same as McNamara); MACV estimated "more than 7600" sinceJanuary 1961, declining to about 1000 in 1963, mostly "political cadres," adding that "external supply ofarms is not a critical matter." The worst problem, McCone reported, is that "The VC appeal to the peopleof South Vietnam on political grounds has been effective," something that the US could never counter.Sullivan reported that "There is a Peoples Republic of the Viet Cong" running from Saigon through mostof the Delta, "a well-established subsisting entity which probably pays its own way, even with regard tothe war material which it imports from the outside world." GVN Commander-in-Chief General Don saidthat "We are like an expeditionary force in a hostile territory, holding only a few strong points andmaintaining only a few main roads of communication." "The abrupt exposure of the true situation thathad developed throughout the country came as a surprise and shock to many Vietnamese andAmericans," another State Department official reported on December 31.78 Go to the next segment.76 FRUSV, IV640, 652, 629, 635f.; FRUSV-64, 119-20.77 FRUSV, IV 681ff., 698f., 704ff., 722.78 Ibid., 728-53. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s23.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:11 PM]
  • 105. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [24/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 24/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet11. Going NorthContinuing into 1964, we find the same pattern of planning and debate as under Kennedy, modified onlyin that the 1962-1963 optimism about imminent victory is abandoned, as the truth about the militarysituation finally penetrated and the US failed to impose a government that would unleash the requisiteresources of "great violence" and control its population with Hitler-style efficiency, thus overcoming thedefects that dismayed Lodge. As the year opened, Lodge reported to LBJ that while the overthrow ofDiem prevented "certain catastrophe," we are "now just beginning to see the full extent of the dry rot andlassitude in the Government of Viet-Nam and the extent to which we were given inaccurate information"(January 1). McCone reported that the military field officers "had been grossly misinformed" by theirVietnamese associates, urging that US intelligence bypass them henceforth and make its ownassessments (January 7). McNamara and others also learned more about the "grossly inaccurate picture"on which they had been basing their plans (Forrestal, January 8).79A few weeks later, the Joint Chiefs recommended that the US "Induce the Government of Vietnam toconduct overt ground operations in Laos of sufficient scope to impede the flow of personnel and materialsouthward," and "Arm, equip, advise and support the Government of Vietnam in its conduct of aerialbombing of critical targets in North Vietnam and in mining the sea approaches to that country." Theyrecommended further that the US itself "Conduct aerial bombing of key North Vietnam targets,""Commit additional US forces, as necessary, in support of the combat action within South Vietnam," and"Commit US forces as necessary in direct actions against North Vietnam" (Taylor, January 22).80McNamaras DOD rejected this advice, proposing only to "continue our present policy of providingtraining and logistical support for the South Vietnam forces," without direct US involvement (March 2).LBJ uneasily dragged his feet. In a meeting with the Joint Chiefs on March 4, he made it clear "that hedoes not want to lose South Vietnam before next November nor does he want to get the country into war"(Taylor Memorandum). On March 17, he rejected the JCS request for "putting in more U.S. forces" andrefused to authorize even "reconnaissance over North Vietnam."81By then, some of the Kennedy doves were tending towards escalation. Forrestal observed on March 18that "I am somewhat more worried by those who argue for a bug out in Southeast Asia than I am by theadherents of Rostow," the superhawk; that these were the alternatives was becoming the consensus view.As the US position in the South deteriorated, Forrestal increasingly favored escalation of actions againstthe North along with an intensified counterinsurgency program, later supporting the Joint Chiefs on airand ground operations in Laos as well.82Hilsmans position was similar. On leaving the government, he wrote a secret memorandum (March 14) http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s24.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:13 PM]
  • 106. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [24/27]in which he emphasized the need to assure Asians, friend or enemy, of "U.S. determination to useappropriate force, tailored to the essentially limited political objectives...." We must show that "we aredetermined to take whatever measures are necessary in Southeast Asia to protect those who oppose theCommunists and to maintain our power and influence in the area," and therefore "must urgently begin tostrengthen our overall military posture in Southeast Asia in ways which will make it clear that we aresingle-mindedly improving our capability to take whatever military steps may be necessary to haltCommunist aggression in the area" (crucially, Viet Cong "aggression"). We might station a Marinebattalion in Saigon on the pretext of protecting American dependents. Attacks against the North might be"a useful supplement to an effective counterinsurgency program," but not "an effective substitute" for it.We must "continue the covert, or at least deniable, operations" against the North in order to keep "thethreat of eventual destruction alive in Hanois mind."83Recall that Hilsman had made the same recommendations in April 1963, in virtually the same words,including the advice to "continue" the ongoing covert operations against the North with their implicitthreat of destruction; that he had advised the deployment of US combat forces to assist the rebel generalsin the event of any hint that Diem and Nhu were seeking a political settlement, and the use of unlimitedforce against the DRV if they sought "to counter our actions"; and that after the assassination, he hadassured the GVN that "we shall keep in Viet-Nam whatever forces are needed for victory."By March 30, "all the Chiefs except General Taylor wanted to go north," the White House was informed.Forrestal supported the Chiefs call for "overt SVN action with U.S. covert support," but wanted "directU.S. action as a contingency," for the moment. LBJ continued to reject either withdrawal or escalation.Mansfield approved, as noted. We must "help the Vietnamese to help themselves," LBJ informed Lodge,nothing more (April 28).84 Go to the next segment.79 FRUSV-64, 1ff.80 PP, III 496-9; FRUSV-64, 35.81 Ibid., 120, 129, 167ff.82 Ibid., 174, 206-7, 387-8, 806.83His emphasis. Ibid., 176ff. The quotes in the last sentence appear in an excerpt in Hilsmans memoirTo Move a Nation, 536, with the word "continue" and a later reference to ongoing operations deleted.84 FRUSV-64, 197-8, 206, 224, 273. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s24.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:13 PM]
  • 107. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [25/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 25/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetIn late May, McGeorge Bundy advised "selected and carefully graduated military force against NorthVietnam," while Forrestal, after a two-week visit to South Vietnam, reported his "very strong personalopinion" that "the United States must take a fairly dramatic step soon against the North," along with aneventual "increase both in the American military and civilian presence in the countryside" in the South.On June 2, the Joint Chiefs again called for "military actions to accomplish destruction of the NorthVietnamese will and capabilities as necessary to compel [the DRV] to cease providing support" forinsurgent activities in Laos and Vietnam. LBJ continued to hold back. When two US reconnaissanceplanes were shot down in Laos, he approved a retaliatory attack on an antiaircraft installation only "withgrave reservations."On August 2, the US destroyer Maddox was attacked in Tonkin Gulf. Forrestal urged that US naval unitsshould operate within the 12-mile limit "probably" claimed by North Vietnam and suggested that thoughtbe given to "hot pursuit" to a distance of three miles as well as aerial mining of harbors and "anunidentified air strike against one or more of these harbors." He recognized at once that "the NorthVietnamese and perhaps the Chicoms" had probably taken the Maddox to be accompanying the "OPLAN34A harassing action by SVN forces against two islands off the DRV coast" at the same time. CIADirector McCone informed the National Security Council that "The North Vietnamese are reactingdefensively to our attacks on their off-shore islands." The State Department assumed the same, as itissued a strong public condemnation of the "unprovoked attack," and the Administration drafted thecongressional resolution denouncing "unprovoked armed attacks" that was later used as the justificationfor escalation.85By late August, JCS appeals for direct US military involvement became more strident. They advisedMcNamara that "accelerated and forceful action with respect to North Vietnam is essential to prevent acomplete collapse of the US position in Southeast Asia." Bundy informed the President that "landing alimited number of Marines to guard specific installations" was under discussion, though McNamara was"very strongly against" that course. Bundy thought that "before we let this country go we should have ahard look" at the "grim alternative" of using "substantial U.S. armed forces" (August 31).86Note that this is almost a year after the assassination, which, it is alleged, gave the hawks free rein to takeover and escalate the war (or even was perpetrated by them to place their man, the hawkish LBJ, inpower).With intelligence reporting (September 8) that "the present situation is far more serious than that ofNovember 1963," the consensus of the Presidents advisers was that it would be necessary to resume USnaval patrols and "34A operations by the GVN," along with "limited GVN air and ground operations" insouthern Laos, though only after a stable base was established in South Vietnam. LBJ agreed, opposing http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s25.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:15 PM]
  • 108. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [25/27]"those advocating immediate and extensive action against the North." NSAM 314 (September 10)approved US naval patrols "well beyond [outside] the 12-mile limit" and "clearly dissociated from 34Amaritime operations" by the GVN, with no GVN air strikes considered for the present, and an emphasison "economic and political actions," at LBJs insistence. After another alleged Gulf of Tonkin incident aweek later, the President was "very skeptical about the evidence" and rejected the advice for "rapidescalation," indeed any response. He "again found [considerable] force" in George Balls qualms aboutconducting naval patrols at all, again lining up with the more extreme Kennedy doves.On October 1, intelligence reported further deterioration in South Vietnam, and the JCS reiterated theirdemand for "strong military actions...to prevent the collapse of the US position in Southeast Asia"(October 27). Taylor, who had replaced Lodge as Ambassador, continued to oppose the use of US forces(see below). On November 23, the Chiefs advised a "controlled program of intense military pressuresagainst the DRV." Taylor informed Washington that "the northern provinces of South Viet-Nam which ayear ago were considered almost free of Viet-Cong are now in deep trouble," and only "heroic treatment"could revive the counterinsurgency program, which is "bogged down" everywhere. No options remainexcept compelling the DRV to "make the Viet-Cong desist." After an unattributed bombing in the South,Taylor and the military command recommended "forty strike sorties" against the DRV in "retaliation,"which would "do wonders for the morale of U.S. personnel in South Vietnam," McGeorge Bundy urgedthe President (December 28). The President rejected these proposals, proposing instead that Rangers,Special Forces, and Marines might be used "to stiffen the aggressiveness of Vietnamese military units."87So 1964 ends, and with it, the extensive record of newly-released documents. Their contribution is toundermine much further the already implausible contention that JFK intended to withdraw withoutvictory and that the assassination caused dramatic changes in policy (or, indeed, had any effect). Just asthere is no hint in the record of any such intention on JFKs part, there is also no indication that hisadvisers, however dovish, felt that President Johnson was urging too aggressive a course or had departedfrom JFKs stand. On the contrary, Johnson remained skeptical and reluctant about US military actionthroughout, earning the applause of Ball and Mansfield for his "wise caution," while other JFK dovesurged stronger US military actions. The belief that JFK might have responded differently as theoptimistic projections of 1962-1963 collapsed is an act of faith, based on nothing but the belief that thePresident had some spiritual quality absent in everyone around him, leaving no detectable trace. Go to the next segment.85 Ibid., 374, 387-8, 437f., 475, 598ff.86 Ibid., 717, 723.87 Ibid., 742f., 759, 778f., 806, 847, 933, 948f., 1049f., 1057f. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s25.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:14:15 PM]
  • 109. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [26/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 26/27 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet12. Militarily Strong, Politically WeakThe basic problem that McCone had stressed in December 1963 was well understood. The VC "believein something," Lodge reported in January 1964: "the Communists have conveyed to these men [a] clearpicture of a program which they think will make life better. We have not. They are also well organizedpolitically; we are not." The US client regime has overwhelming military advantages, but "the VC havesimply shifted from military to political tactics and are defeating us politically," following "the old MaoTse-tung maxim." "We are at present overwhelmingly outclassed politically." We must "enunciate apolitical program" and organize precinct workers. The US is militarily strong but politically weak, unableto enlist support for its plans for the Third World, a persistent problem in Indochina as elsewhere, alwaysa mystery to the planners.US disadvantages were compounded by a problem discovered by Hubert Humphrey on a June visit: "therelatively indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and napalm are not calculated to win the support of thepeople," he found. Furthermore, "A political base is needed to support all other actions toward gainingvictory," and we should guide the Vietnamese to develop such a base, which the Vietnamese, unlike theViet Cong, sorely lack. He too rejected any thought of withdrawal without victory or permitting "a`neutralist solution," which would signal "to the people of southeast Asia that we have lost confidence inthem and that the game is lost." "The people" are our favorite generals, for this shining light of Americanliberalism.88In November 1964, Ambassador Taylor wrote a think-piece on these political problems, revealing theastuteness that caught the eye of JFK, whom he had impressed as "an intellectual who quotedThucydides" as well as an expert in "unconventional warfare," Newman writes (127, citing DavidHalberstam). Taylor deplored the "national attribute which makes for factionalism and limits thedevelopment of a truly national spirit" among the Vietnamese, perhaps "innate" or a result of their historyof "political suppression" under the French. This "national attribute" makes it difficult for the Vietnameseto confront the Viet Cong, who "have an amazing ability to maintain morale" and are able "continuouslyto rebuild their units and to make good their losses," exhibiting "the recuperative powers of the phoenix."This is "one of the mysteries of this guerrilla war," JFKs specialist on political warfare lamented, addingthat "we still find no plausible explanation" for it. Since "we are playing a losing game in South Viet-Nam" (the political game), "it is high time we change and find a better way": pressuring the DRV todirect an end to the southern resistance.89 Only North Vietnamese orders can now compel the VCaggressors, who are so radically different from the Vietnamese in their innate and acquiredcharacteristics, to end their "assault from the inside" (JFK) and to dismantle the political base that wecannot duplicate. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s26.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:18 PM]
  • 110. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [26/27]Such thoughts appear throughout the internal record, as in public commentary. For the planners, as forthe political class generally, it is never easy to comprehend why backward peoples to whom we ministerdo not comprehend our magnificence, why "their side" looks ten-feet tall while "our side" are crooks andgangsters, suffering from defects that may even be "innate." And in contemplating these mysteries, theyeasily fall into musings, even self-contradiction, that would be comical if the consequences for thevictims were not so disastrous. These are enduring themes of the 500-year conquest, sure to persist.13. The Military ViewOne might ask why the military command failed to recognize the truth about the situation in thecountryside. The matter is addressed by the military historian on whom Newman heavily relies, AndrewKrepinich, who explains that the top command was guided by a "Concept" drawn from World War IIdoctrine, which was challenged by negative reports from the field; these were accordingly disregarded, afact that will surprise no one familiar with military history -- or Tolstoys novels.90After the Diem assassination (which the military opposed, predicting accurately that it would cause themilitary situation to deteriorate), the bureaucratic structure eroded and the truth began to filter through,leading to revision of planning. But false reports from the military command continued to mislead the topcivilian leadership up to the 1968 Tet offensive. One close associate of Johnsons, who sat in on thehighest-level planning meetings in those years and was also briefed regularly by field-grade officers andCIA personnel, informed me privately that pessimistic reports from the field were regularly transmutedto encouraging signs of progress as they reached the Presidents highest advisers, through the naturalprocess by which subordinates tailor their reports to what they know is preferred, and people hear whatthey want to hear.As is often the case, the top military leadership were sharply divided over the war. In April 1961,General Douglas MacArthur warned JFK that it would be a "mistake" to fight in Southeast Asiaaltogether, and that "our line should be Japan, Formosa and the Philippines." The same stand was takenby MacArthurs successor as Army Chief of Staff, General Matthew Ridgway, who "argued in acontinuous barrage of memoranda that the United States should steer clear of an Asian land war," MarcusRaskin notes. Ridgway had strongly opposed US intervention in 1954. Even a limited US presence inSoutheast Asia "had an ominous ring," he wrote in 1956, for it would inevitably lead to a commitment ofground forces. On US air support, Ridgway recalled Korea, finding it "incredible...that we were on theverge of making that same tragic error," as Kennedy did shortly after. Later too he "passionately opposedintervention in Vietnam," military historian Robert Buzzanco writes. Army Plans Chief General JamesGavin also warned against US intervention, and continued to criticize US involvement in Indochinathrough the Eisenhower years, later advocating the "enclave strategy." In a 1954 planning studycommissioned by Ridgway, Gavin found that intervention would require vast military resources. He alsowarned against the effect of interservice rivalries in driving policy, noting in the late 1950s that "Whatappears to be intense interservice rivalry in most cases...is fundamentally industrial rivalry." General J.Lawton Collins was another critic of intervention, saying later that he did not "know of a single seniorcommander that was in favor of fighting on the land mass of Asia." http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s26.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:18 PM]
  • 111. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [26/27]"Indeed, more than any other institution -- in or outside of government -- the U.S. armed forces workedagainst military involvement in the first Indochina war," Buzzanco concludes, from July 1949, when theChiefs warned that the "widening political consciousness and the rise of militant nationalism among thesubject people" could not be crushed by force and that Vietnamese nationalism "cannot be reversed." TheChiefs were "unanimously opposed to the commitment of any troops," Defense Secretary Robert Lovettwrote NATO Commander Eisenhower in 1952. The NSC civilian leadership, in contrast, favored a troopcommitment. The JCS "insisted that the United States must not be committed financially, militarily, oreconomically" to intervention in Southeast Asia, the Pentagon Papers analyst concluded. A 1954 JCSreport concluded that "no amount of external pressure and assistance can long delay completeCommunist victory in South Vietnam," without a strong base of popular support. Army planners hadestimated in 1950 that 80 percent of Vietnamese supported Ho Chi Minh, and of those, 80 percent werenot Communists, an assessment that did not change. US government studies of VC defectors andprisoners 15 years later found that "few of them considered themselves Communists or could give adefinition of Communism," or were aware of any North Vietnamese role in the war "except as a valuedally."91 Go to the next segment.88 Ibid., 17-8, 480-1.89 Ibid., 950-1.90 Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 287-8, 282.91Schlesinger, 1000 Days, 316; RFK, 703. Sorenson, Kennedy, 641. Raskin, "JFK and the Culture ofViolence," AHR forum (on the Stone film), American Historical Review, April 1992. Buzzanco,"Division, Dilemma and Dissent: Military Recognition of the Peril of War in Vietnam," in Duffy,Informed Dissent; "The American Militarys Rationale against the Vietnam War," Political ScienceQuarterly, 4, 1986; "Prologue to Tragedy," Diplomatic History, forthcoming. VC attitude studies,APNM, 243, 282; FRS, 5; Anthony Russo, Ramparts, April 1972; excerpts from RAND studies,Ramparts, Nov. 1972. Raskin adds that Ridgways successor, Maxwell Taylor, disagreed with Ridgway;Taylors position "held sway, and it led quickly to dramatic escalations." The latter conclusion is notaccurate. Recall that Taylor recommended the October withdrawal plans that JFK endorsed withhesitations; see below, on his continued opposition to US combat troops. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s26.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:18 PM]
  • 112. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [27/27] Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter One: From Terror to Aggression Segment 27/27 Previous segment |Next chapter | Contents | Archive | ZNetDespite the changes introduced by Kennedys "action intellectuals," these attitudes did not disappear. Thetop US military commander in Vietnam, MAAG Chief General Lionel McGarr, informed JFK onFebruary 22, 1962 that "in providing the GVN the tools to do the job," the US "must not offer so muchthat they forget that the job of saving the country is theirs -- only they can do it." Robert Buzzanco, whohas given the closest scholarly attention to this topic, concludes that "notwithstanding John Newmansrecent argument that the JCS pressured President John F. Kennedy into deeper commitments to the RVNdespite his grave reservations, there is ample evidence that even in the early 1960s the military did notfeel compelled to intervene in Indochina."92Kennedys most trusted military adviser, General Taylor, shared the doubts of other senior commandersabout dispatch of combat troops, as did Pacific Commander Admiral Henry Felt. As plans to overthrowthe Diem-Nhu regime were underway in September 1963, Taylor expressed his "reluctance tocontemplate the use of U.S.troops in combat in Vietnam," while agreeing with the President and his othertop advisers that "our sole objective was to win the war." A year after the assassination, in September1964, Taylor explained that MACV "did not contemplate" committing combat forces becauseCommanding General Westmoreland, echoing McGarr, felt that the use of American troops "would be amistake, that it is the Vietnamese war." Agreeing, Taylor continued to urge that the US keep to the"principle that the Vietnamese fight their own war in SVN" (November 3, 1964). He therefore opposedsending logistical forces for flood relief because that would require dispatch of "US combat troops insome numbers to provide close protection." He argued that the situation was not comparable to the farmore severe 1961 flood, when he had recommended dispatch of "US logistic units with combat support"for "flood relief operations." Two weeks later, he informed President Johnson that he was now "quitecertain [US combat troops] were not needed...as the estimates of the flood damage diminish." Hisobjection to sending combat forces continued. In February 1965, he opposed General Westmorelandsrequest for Marines to protect the US air base at Danang, arguing again that it would be "very difficult tohold the line on future deployments" and that the US should keep to the "long standing policies ofavoiding commitment of ground combat forces in South Vietnam." When his advice was rejected, headvocated the "enclave strategy" proposed by the extreme doves.93In later years, as we shall see, great import has been attributed to JFKs public reiteration of the McGarr-Westmoreland-Taylor "principle" in his September 1963 statement that "In the final analysis it is theirwar. They have to win it or lose it." It is, therefore, worth stressing that the "principle" was standardthroughout in internal and public discussion. The McNamara-Taylor report to the President of October 2stated that "The U.S. advisory effort, however, cannot assure ultimate success. This is a Vietnamese warand the country and the war must, in the end, be run solely by the Vietnamese. It will impair theirindependence and development of their initiative if we leave our advisers in place beyond the time theyare really needed...." High-ranking officials kept to that position as long as there appeared to be hopes for http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s27.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:31 PM]
  • 113. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [27/27]victory in these terms. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in late January 1964,McNamara stated that "It is a Vietnamese war. They are going to have to assume the primaryresponsibility for winning it. Our policy is to limit our support to logistical and training support... Ourresponsibility is not to substitute ourselves for the Vietnamese, but to train them to carry on theoperations that they themselves are capable of" in this "counterguerrilla war," which "can only be won bythe Vietnamese themselves." He reiterated his expectation that withdrawal could proceed as planned.94Later, as the premises concerning victory were seen to be unrealistic, McNamara and others changedtheir tactical stance. It is, again, merely an act of faith to assume that JFKs reaction to changedassessments would have differed from that of his most trusted advisers, to whom he had delegatedresponsibility for the war.Taylor also "strongly opposed" the decision to request combat troops in March 1965 as the Saigonmilitary was on the verge of collapse, and continued to oppose the "hasty and ill-conceived" proposalsfor a greater commitment. Bergerud notes that in mid-1965, "Ambassador Maxwell Taylor and GeorgeBall argued for sharply limited American force levels and the employment of U.S. troops in and aroundstrategic `enclaves." Taylors "principle that the Vietnamese fight their own war" was, however, a matterof tactical judgment, based on an assessment that there would be "no clear gain" in a departure from it(November 3, 1964). In this respect, he was at one with JFK, so the available record indicates.Speaking to fellow officers in 1963, incoming Marine Commandant Wallace Greene warned that UStroops were "mired down in South Vietnam...and we dont seem to be able to do much about it." TheMarines "do not want to get any more involved in South Vietnam," he informed them. A March 1964report by MACV planner General Richard Stillwell confirmed Greenes judgment, recommendingvarious actions but not US combat troops. In January 1965, the MACV staff, with Taylors concurrence,continued to oppose US combat troops, which "would at best buy time and would lead to ever increasingcommitments until, like the French, we would be occupying an essentially hostile foreign country." InMay 1965, Greene warned again that this "unwanted, undesired, miserable war" was getting worse,noting that at least half the US population "dont want anything to do with it."Greenes predecessor General David Shoup, Marine Commandant through the Kennedy years and knownas Kennedys "favorite service chief," reports that when the Joint Chiefs considered troop deployment,"in every case...every senior officer that I knew...said we should never send ground combat forces intoSoutheast Asia." Shoup was a particularly strong opponent of the war. It would be hard to find a civilianfigure who came close to the views he expressed in a May 1966 speech at Junior College World AffairsDay: I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for. [Not one] crammed down their throats by Americans. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s27.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:31 PM]
  • 114. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 1 [27/27]Surely Arthur Schlesinger and others who later described themselves as opponents of escalation took nosuch stand; nor did media doves.95These observations add further weight to the conclusion based on the record of internal deliberations, inwhich JFK insists upon victory and considers withdrawal only on this condition. Had he intended towithdraw, he would have been able to enlist respected military commanders to back him. He made noeffort to do so, preferring instead to whip up pro-war sentiment by extravagant rhetoric about theenormous stakes that require us to stand firm, come what may. Go to the next chapter.92Buzzanco, "Division, Dilemma, Dissent"; "Waiting for Westy," paper delivered at Conference ofSociety of Historians of American Foreign Relations, Vassar, June 1992. Reviewing Newmans files,Buzzanco concludes that his work is based on "questionable analysis and uses of sources."93Buzzanco, "Division, Dilemma, Dissent." FRUSV, IV 170; FRUSV-64, 883, 901-2, 909. Berman,Planning, 52-6. On Taylors reluctance, see also Kahin, Intervention.94 PP, II 756; III 19 (highlighted), 35f.95Buzzanco, "Division, Dilemma, Dissent," "Waiting for Westy," "American Militarys Rationale."Bergerud, Dynamics, 90. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c01-s27.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:31 PM]
  • 115. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [1/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet C H A P T E R T W O InterpretationsWe have reviewed the first three categories of evidence concerning Kennedys war and plans, and thepresidential transition: the events themselves, public statements, and the internal record. The last sourceof evidence is the memoirs and other comments of his associates. These come in two versions: beforeand after the Tet offensive. We review these in the next two sections, then turning to the 1991-1992revival. This survey only adds conviction to what we have already found, while shedding interesting lighton the cultural scene.1. The Early VersionKennedys commitment to stay the course was clear to those closest to him. As noted, Arthur Schlesingershared JFKs perception of the enormous stakes and his optimism that the military escalation hadreversed the "aggression" of the indigenous guerrillas in 1962. There is not a word in Schlesingerschronicle of the Kennedy years that hints of any intention, however vague, to withdraw without victory(1965, reprinted 1967).In fact, Schlesinger gives no indication that JFK thought about withdrawal at all. The withdrawal plansreceive one sentence in his voluminous text. In the context of the debate over pressuring the Diemregime, Schlesinger writes that McNamara returned from Saigon in October 1963 and "announced...thata thousand American troops could be withdrawn by the end of the year and that the major part of theAmerican military task would be completed by the end of 1965." That is the entire discussion ofwithdrawal plans in this 940-page virtual day-by-day record of the Kennedy Administration by its quasi-official historian.1These facts leave only three possible conclusions: (1) the historian was keeping the Presidents intentionssecret; (2) this close JFK confidant had no inkling of his intentions; (3) there were no such intentions.Which is it? The question is addressed only obliquely by advocates of the withdrawal-without-victorythesis. The only plausible conclusion is (3), but that is rejected by the advocates, leaving (1) or (2). Thelatter might strain credulity, unless taken to show the lengths to which JFK went to deceive all aroundhim. Newman cites Schlesingers justification in 1978 of JFKs "decision to hide his plans" (324),implying that the correct conclusion is (1) -- unless Schlesinger had learned about these "secret plans" in http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s01.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:33 PM]
  • 116. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [1/15the interim, which no one claims, including Schlesinger himself. Hence Schlesinger too must be adopting(1). Furthermore, he lauds Newmans book with no relevant reservations, again suggesting that heregards (1) as accurate. One would be interested to hear an explanation.Similar questions arise in the case of another close associate, Theodore Sorenson, who also published ahistory of the Administration in 1965. Sorenson was Kennedys first appointed official, served as hisspecial counsel, and attended all NSC meetings. He stayed on through the early months of the JohnsonAdministration. He devotes little attention to Vietnam. No withdrawal plans are mentioned. Quite thecontrary. Kennedys "essential contribution" was to avoid the extremes advocated "by those impatient towin or withdraw. His strategy essentially was to avoid escalation, retreat or a choice limited to these two,while seeking to buy time..." He opposed withdrawal or "bargain[ing] away Vietnams security at theconference table."Sorenson notes Kennedys view that the stakes were high: "free world security," which would be severelycompromised if Vietnam were lost and Southeast Asia were to fall to "the hungry Chinese." Kennedyscommitment to defend South Vietnam, Sorenson says, "was not only carried out but...reinforced by avast expansion of effort." Impressed with Douglas MacArthurs opposition to sending troops, Kennedypreferred "a major counterinsurgency effort," though he "never made a final negative decision on troops"and "ordered the departments to be prepared for the introduction of combat troops should they prove tobe necessary." Meanwhile, he "steadily expanded the size of the military assistance mission (2000 at theend of 1961, 15,500 at the end of 1963)2 by sending in combat support units, air combat and helicopterteams, still more military advisers and instructors, and 600 of the green-hatted Special Forces to train andlead the South Vietnamese in anti-guerrilla tactics."Like Schlesinger, Sorenson highlights JFKs hopeful January 1963 prediction that "the spear point ofaggression has been blunted in Vietnam." But "In mid-1963 the picture worsened rapidly" with therepression of the Buddhists, Nhus reported moves towards "a secret deal with the North," and his failureto heed US admonitions to "get back to the war." Worse yet was Nhus public statement that "there weretoo many US troops in Vietnam." Even after the overthrow of the Diem-Nhu regime, "no early end to theVietnam war was in sight" and "the struggle could well be, [JFK] thought, this nations severest test ofendurance and patience": He was simply going to weather it out, a nasty, untidy mess to which there was no other acceptable solution. Talk of abandoning so unstable an ally and so costly a commitment "only makes it easy for the Communists," said the President. "I think we should stay."So Sorensons account ends. Here too, there is no hint of any intent to withdraw short of victory. Again,we may choose among the same three conclusions. Go to the next segment. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s01.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:33 PM]
  • 117. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [1/151Schlesinger, 1000 Days, 908. The basic point is made accurately by Richard Grenier of the far-rightWashington Times in the Times Literary Supplement (London), letter, March 20, 1992, in response toSchlesingers Feb. 28 reference to "newly declassified official papers that amply document" Kennedys"plans for withdrawal," citing Newman. See also the subsequent exchange (Schlesinger, April 3; Grenier,May 1, again accurate).2 Actually, from 685 when JFK took office to 16, 732 in October 1963; Schlesinger, RFK, 722. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s01.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:33 PM]
  • 118. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [2/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 2/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetNo one was closer to JFK than his brother, the Attorney-General. Sorenson notes that as RFK fullyacknowledged, his own role "was one of complete support for the U.S. commitment," which he hadexpressed in 1962: "The solution lies in our winning it. This is what the President intends to do... We willremain here [in Saigon] until we do." In a 1964 oral history, RFK said that the Administration had neverfaced the possibilities of either withdrawal or escalation. Asked what JFK would have done if the SouthVietnamese appeared doomed, he said: "Wed face that when we came to it." "Roberts ownunderstanding of his brothers position," his biographer Arthur Schlesinger reports, was that "we shouldwin the war" because of the domino effect. RFK said further that by late 1963, the President had become"very unhappy" with his dovish adviser Averell Harriman, who was expressing skepticism about theoptimistic reports from Saigon. JFKs annoyance was so great that Harriman "put on about ten yearsduring that period...because he was so discouraged." If indeed JFK intended to withdraw without victory,he was fooling both Harriman and his brother, it appears. The problem with Diem, RFK added, was thatwe need "somebody that can win the war," and he wasnt the man for it. Accordingly, it is no surprisethat RFK fully supported Johnsons continuation of what he understood to be his brothers policiesthrough the 1965 escalation. By mid-1965 he was advocating negotiations while condemningwithdrawal. Schlesinger traces his break with Johnsons escalation policy to July 1965, Sorenson toFebruary 1966. He never proposed withdrawal, or indicated that his brother had such a plan. Accordingto Schlesinger, RFKs position as of December 1965 was stated privately in these words: "I dont believein pulling out the troops. Weve got to show China we mean to stop them. If we can hold them for about20 years, maybe they will change the way Russia has."3The last of the early accounts of the Kennedy Administration was written by Roger Hilsman, arepresentative of the dovish faction of the Administration (along with Harriman and Forrestal, he notes),and a high-ranking official particularly well-placed to know about Vietnam policy. He wrote shortlybefore the Tet offensive, when the US troop level had peaked and protest against the war had reached asubstantial scale, and well after severe doubts about the war were raised at the highest levels, includingMcNamara. (The latest source Hilsman cites is August 15, 1967.) Because of his position and the timing,Hilsmans account is of particular interest.Hilsman takes it for granted that the goal throughout was "to defeat the Communist guerrillas," andspeculates that the overthrow of Diem had offered "a second chance" to achieve this objective. Had JFKlived, "he might well have introduced United States ground forces into South Vietnam -- though I believehe would not have ordered them to take over the war effort from the Vietnamese but would have limitedtheir mission to the task of occupying ports, airfields, and military bases to demonstrate to the NorthVietnamese that they could not win the struggle by escalation either" -- the enclave strategy advocated byBall and Taylor in early 1965, then publicly by General Gavin and others. Hilsman feels that LBJ"sincerely even desperately wanted to make the existing policy work," without US combat forces, citing http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s02.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:38 PM]
  • 119. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [2/15LBJs statement of September 25, 1964 that "We dont want our American boys to do the fighting forAsian boys"; to emphasize its importance, Hilsman also gives this LBJ quote as one of several openinghis Vietnam section.4 As we have seen, his conclusion about LBJ is supported by the internal record.On withdrawal plans, Hilsman adds nothing of substance to what was published in the press at the time.His only comment is that the optimistic predictions on which withdrawal was conditioned would come"to haunt Secretary McNamara and the whole history of American involvement in Vietnam." The "realtragedy," Hilsman writes, "is that many of the ranking American officers in Saigon and the Pentagonbelieved it." He reports his feeling at the time that unless the Diem regime responded to US pressure todedicate itself to victory, or was replaced by generals who would, "in six months to a year the Viet Congwould control the country -- or we would have to take over the war with American ground forces, whichPresident Kennedy was convinced would be a tragic error. But the real hell of it was that, even ifsomething did happen [in Saigon], the situation might still come to that choice." The question of how torespond to a collapse of the Saigon regime was delayed, in the hope that it would not arise. "Wed facethat when we came to it," as RFK put it in 1964.5Hilsmans reservations about Johnsons war in this late 1967 account are subdued. He reports theobjections he shared with Harriman and Forrestal to Rostows "well-reasoned case for a gradualescalation," including ultimate bombing of the North, the "fundamental" objection being "that it probablywould not work" (recall Forrestals shift toward Rostows position by March-May 1964). He writes thatthe March 1964 memo that he sent LBJ "as a sort of political testament on my departure concentrated onwarning against the bombing of North Vietnam," a highly contentious issue by late 1967. This referenceto the memo is not accurate. Bombing of the North is raised in only 3 of the 19 paragraphs. The memoconcentrates on counterinsurgency, and secondarily, on ensuring "political stability" in Saigon, wheretalk of "neutralization" must be terminated and a Marine battalion might be dispatched to prevent anothercoup. With regard to bombing of the North, Hilsmans memo raised only tactical objections, calling forsuch bombing as a "useful supplement" to counterinsurgency while repeating his recommendation of ayear earlier that covert actions against the North be continued, "keeping the threat of eventual destructionalive in Hanois mind." He also suggested "selected attacks on their infiltration bases and training camps"after sufficient progress had been made in suppressing the southern insurgency.6In short, four years after the assassination, this dovish Vietnam policy insider has only limited objectionsto Johnsons already highly unpopular war. He praises LBJ for his "sincere" and "desperate" efforts toimplement JFKs policies, and gives no indication that JFK planned to withdraw without victory, or hadeven considered withdrawal beyond his (tepid) authorization of McNamaras recommendations, based onthe precondition of victory. He considers the withdrawal issue insignificant, so much so that he addsessentially nothing to what had been prominently published before the assassination. In retrospect, hefeels that JFK might have made different choices than his senior advisers, but offers nothing to supportthat belief. Again, we face the same three alternatives, and are left only with the third as a plausiblecontender: the President had no plan to withdraw short of victory.The internal record of 1964 shows that Kennedy doves saw matters much as described in the 1964-1967memoirs, and therefore continued to support Johnsons policies, some pressing for further escalation, http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s02.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:38 PM]
  • 120. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [2/15others (Ball, Mansfield) praising Johnson for choosing the middle course between escalation andwithdrawal. All of this material adds further confirmation to the record of public statements and internaldeliberations.This completes the review of crucial evidence: the pre-Tet memoirs conform closely to the other sourcesof evidence. The conclusions are unambiguous, surprisingly so on a matter of current history: PresidentKennedy was firmly committed to the policy of victory that he inherited and transmitted to his successor,and to the doctrinal framework that assigned enormous significance to that outcome; he had no plan orintention to withdraw without victory; he had apparently given little thought to the matter altogether, andit was regarded as of marginal interest by those closest to him. Furthermore, the basic facts wereprominently published at the time, with more detail than is provided by the early memoirs. Go to the next segment.3Sorenson, Kennedy Legacy, 213-4. Giglio, Presidency, 254; Schlesinger, RFK, 727, 713, 715, 730, 733-4.4 Hilsman, To Move a Nation, 580, 537, 411.5 Ibid., 531n., 536f., 510f.6 Ibid., 527ff. FRUSV-64, 179-82. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s02.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:38 PM]
  • 121. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [3/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 3/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet2. The Record RevisedBy 1966, it was becoming clear that things were not going well in Vietnam. Arthur Schlesingerexpressed concern that the US effort to "suppress the resistance" by widening the war had dubiousprospects, though "we may all be saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government" ifJohnsons escalation succeeds, even if it leaves "the tragic country gutted and devastated by bombs,burned by napalm, turned into a wasteland by chemical defoliation, a land of ruin and wreck," with its"political and institutional fabric" pulverized. "No thoughtful American can withhold sympathy asPresident Johnson ponders the gloomy choices which lie ahead" -- sympathy for the President, that is, notthe victims. Referring to Joseph Alsops predictions of victory, Schlesinger writes that "we all pray thatMr. Alsop will be right," though he doubts it. The only qualms are tactical: what will be the cost to us?In this 1966 book, Schlesinger describes himself as keeping faith with JFK -- plausibly enough. Heproposes a "middle course": the indigenous resistance should surrender to the US and its client regime,accepting a US-run political process, such as the "valiant try at self-government" which "excited suchidealistic hopes in the United States"; he is referring to the 1966 elections, in which the entire opposition(Communists and neutralists) was excluded from the ballot. Withdrawal, he says, is out of the question: it"would have ominous reverberations throughout Asia" and be "humiliating." We must, rather, abide byour "moral obligations" to our clients, "a new class of nouveaux mandarins...pervaded by nepotism,corruption and cynicism," and lacking popular support.7Again we have the same alternatives: (1) Schlesinger is still concealing JFKs intent to withdraw withoutvictory; (2) JFK had successfully concealed it from him; (3) There was there no such intent, in whichcase his later claims are false.Twelve years later, Schlesinger wrote that on January 6, 1966, Robert McNamara had privately informedhim and other "New Frontier friends" that the US would have to seek "withdrawal with honor" inVietnam. A few months later, the friends "decided to do what little we could to stir public opinion." Hisown contribution, he says, was to write The Bitter Heritage -- which prays for victory and opposeswithdrawal as unthinkable.8After the Tet Offensive in January 1968, major domestic power sectors concluded that the enterprise wasbecoming too costly to sustain and called for it to be ended. Apart from the impact on the globaleconomy, unfavorable to the US, the mounting popular opposition to the war was of particular concern.One part of the Pentagon Papers record that has gained little attention reviews the concern in high placesthat further escalation might lead to protest even beyond the "massive" demonstration at the Pentagon inOctober 1967, perhaps also large-scale civil disobedience. In considering further troop deployments, the http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s03.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:43 PM]
  • 122. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [3/15Joint Chiefs wanted to ensure that "sufficient forces would still be available for civil disorder control,"and the Defense Department feared that escalation might lead to "increased defiance of the draft andgrowing unrest in the cities," running the risk of "provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedentedproportions."9President Johnson was, in effect, dismissed from office, and policy was set towards disengagement.The effect of the policy shift on the ideological system was dramatic. Virtually everyone suddenly turnedout to have been an "early opponent of the war" -- in secret, since no record can be found. In Cambridge,the home of the Kennedy "action intellectuals," it became a standing joke. A more accurate picture isgiven by the attitudes of the Massachusetts branch of Americans for Democratic Action, at the"ultraliberal" extreme. In late 1967, its leadership would not even accept membership applications frompeople they expected would speak in favor of an anti-war resolution sponsored by a local chapter thathad fallen out of control.10 A few weeks later, after the Tet offensive, everything changed. By late 1969the liberal press began to move beyond tactical complaints to critical comment, though with no seriousdeviation from state doctrine.11Without too much oversimplification, we can take the Tet offensive of January 1968 to be the turningpoint for the cultural managers, who now faced several challenging tasks. One was to defuse theopposition, an interesting story, still untold. Another was to restore the basic doctrines of the faith: Thewar must now be understood as a noble effort gone astray, in part because of disruptive domesticelements who had impeded the earnest efforts of "early opponents of the war." At the outer limits, wemay say that the war began with "blundering efforts to do good," though "by 1969" it had become "clearto most of the world -- and most Americans -- that the intervention had been a disastrous mistake"; theargument against the war "was that the United States had misunderstood the cultural and political forcesat work in Indochina -- that it was in a position where it could not impose a solution except at a price toocostly to itself" (Anthony Lewis).Recall that the population never absorbed the lessons taught by the extreme doves, continuing to believethat the war was "fundamentally wrong and immoral," not a "mistake."It is misleading to cite only those who have scaled the peaks of independent critical thought. More in themainstream is Peter Kann of the Wall Street Journal, who concedes that 30 years ago there might havebeen an issue about "defending an often imperfect ally; supporting distant Asian dominoes; sowingdemocratic seeds in soil that frequently seemed infertile; waging the war with too much firepower, or toolittle." But today, "it is hard to think of any issue or any place in the world where hindsight offers aclearer spotlight in which to distinguish right from wrong." When we compare "free, prosperous andstable" countries like Indonesia that have been celebrating "personal dignity" since 1965 with the horrorsof Indochina after our retreat, it is obvious to "common sense" that the hawks were right and those whosaw the Communists as "groovy little people in the jungle" were dead wrong. That opponents of the warwere supporters of Communism need not be argued. It follows at once from the basic doctrine of theGospel according to Kann and associates: since US perfection is axiomatic and the concept of "US http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s03.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:43 PM]
  • 123. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [3/15aggression and mass murder" meaningless gibberish, it follows that opponents of US policy aresupporters of the hated enemy. As for the rest, putting aside the exaltation of atrocity and oppression, onewonders whether in some dark corner of Russia there remains some commissar so vile and cowardly asto proclaim the nobility of the Soviet cause in Afghanistan, pointing to the people of Kabul terrorized bythe rockets of the rebel armies. If so, he can apply for a position at any American journal or university. Go to the next segment.7 Schlesinger, Bitter Heritage; see APNM, ch. 4. On the PR function of staged elections in Vietnam andelsewhere, see Herman and Brodhead, Demonstration Elections; MC, ch. 3.8 Schlesinger, RFK, 734, 739.9 See FRS, 25.10Howard Zinn and I were the applicants; the chapter was Arlington, near Cambridge. The details are notwithout interest.11 On media coverage of the war from the early 1950s through 1985, see MC, 169-296and App. 3. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s03.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:43 PM]
  • 124. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [4/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 4/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetGiven the power of the US propaganda system, as well as shared values, loyalists elsewhere uncriticallyadopt its doctrinal verities. The Washington bureau chief of the London Economist writes that "The warwas a tragedy, which did much damage inside and outside America. But that is not at all the same thingas saying that it was wrong, and is very far from substantiating the view that those who believed the warwas necessary were mistaken." The war may even have done a bit of damage to some heathenIndochinese, but the inheritors of centuries of British culture and experience do not tarry over suchchildish concerns. The editors of the Toronto Globe and Mail caution the US not to overreach in itsidealistic efforts to construct a new world order of heavenly virtue: "to career around the globe on awhite charger invites disaster. (Remember Vietnam?)."12 The debate over "humanitarian intervention" inlate 1992 may have reached even lower depths of moral cowardice, with its musings on the "lessons ofVietnam," which showed how difficult such enterprises can be, how costly to us.Gorbachevs Russia could face up to its crimes in Afghanistan, evoking much self-righteous smirkinghere. But the intellectual class in the United States, and their associates elsewhere, must acknowledgenothing and concede nothing. These are among the perquisites and responsibilities of power.The dominant cast of mind was exhibited in the attempt to portray the media, which had always loyallysupported the crusade and continued to do so, as dangerously adversarial, even a threat to the survival offree institutions. This application of the lesson taught by Tacitus (see page 6) was spearheaded by a two-volume Freedom House study of the Tet offensive purporting to show that in their anti-establishmentfrenzy, the media had falsely portrayed an American victory as a defeat for the forces of freedom, thusundermining morale at home; the same charge was levelled against the Soviet media by the military andCommunist Party hierarchy under Brezhnev, with no less merit. The conclusions of this "scholarly study"have become established doctrine, though it was demonstrated at once to be a pathetic mélange offalsehoods and fabrication, which reduces finally to the claim that the media were too "pessimistic" intheir advocacy of the noble cause (though less pessimistic than US intelligence, the Pentagon, and thePresidents top advisers, as the Freedom House scholars chose not to say).13For the totalitarian mind, adherence to state propaganda does not suffice: one must display properenthusiasm while marching in the parade.Interestingly, the media welcomed the Freedom House attack on their integrity, far preferring it to thereadily-established truth: that they generally did their work with professional competence, but rarelystraying from doctrinal purity. The preferred self-image is not the competent though compliantprofessional, but rather the anti-establishment crusader, who may go too far in the courageous defianceof power and institutions. Self-image aside, the crucial doctrinal goal is thereby achieved: discussion isbounded by the hawks, who say that the noble cause could have succeeded with better tactics, more http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s04.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:46 PM]
  • 125. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [4/15commitment, and proper control over the "anti-Americans" who undermined it; and the doves, who "allprayed that the hawks would be right" but now see that our "blundering efforts to do good" weremisplaced, an "error" based on misunderstanding and naiveté.The high-level shift of policy after Tet called for a revision of the earlier record. Since everyone was nowan "early opponent of the war," the same must have been true of the grand leader. The enterprise hadsoured; the picture of John F. Kennedy must therefore be modified. The Kennedy Administration wasunusual in the role played by people sensitive to imagery and doctrine, and in a position to shape them.The love affair of the intellectual community with Camelot is in part a reaction to this unaccustomedwhiff of (real or imagined) power. The liberal intelligentsia naturally felt the "need to insulate JFK fromthe disastrous consequences of the American venture in Southeast Asia," Thomas Brown observes in hisstudy of Camelot imagery. "Kennedys role in the Vietnam war is unsurprisingly...the aspect [of hispublic image and record] that has been subjected to the greatest number of revisions by Kennedysadmirers... The important thing was that JFK be absolved of responsibility for the Vietnam debacle;when the need for exculpation is so urgent, no obstacles -- including morality and the truth -- shouldstand in the way."14No less important is another factor that Brown brings up in discussing the split among JFKs warmanagers over escalation: "The `doves in this debate," he notes, "were not advocates of completewithdrawal from Vietnam but of greater reliance on counterinsurgency measures." Termination of theattack against South Vietnam was unacceptable -- indeed, unthinkable, the concept of US aggressionbeing barred from the intellectual culture. To guard the faith, it is important to ensure that debate over theUS war be constrained within the dove-hawk spectrum: the imaginable policy options lie between US-supported terror (allegedly JFK) and expansion of JFKs aggression to a full-scale attack on all ofIndochina (LBJ, most of the Kennedy advisers who stayed on). And all choices must be sanitized: theyare defense against "the assault from the inside" in JFKs words -- the "assault" by indigenous guerrillasagainst a foreign-imposed terrorist regime that could not survive political competition. If discourse isconstrained within these bounds, the propaganda system will have done its duty.Browns comments on such obstacles as "morality and the truth" relate specifically to one of the earlypost-Tet efforts to revise the image: White House aide Kenneth ODonnells 1972 memoir. Two ofODonnells stories have assumed center stage in the post-Tet reconstruction.15 The first is that Kennedyhad informed Senator Mansfield that he agreed with him "on the need for a complete military withdrawalfrom Vietnam." But he explained "that if he announced a withdrawal of American military personnelfrom Vietnam before the 1964 election, there would be a wild conservative outcry against returning himto the Presidency for a second term." The second is that afterwards, JFK made a private comment toODonnell that he presents verbatim: In 1965, Ill become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. Ill be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser. But I dont care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy scare on our hands, but I can do it after Im reelected. So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s04.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:46 PM]
  • 126. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [4/15In 1975, Mansfield told columnist Jack Anderson that Kennedy "was going to order a gradualwithdrawal" but "never had the chance to put the plan into effect," though he had "definitely andunequivocally" made that decision; in 1978, Mansfield said further that Kennedy had informed him thattroop withdrawal would begin in January 1964.16 Noting Mansfields (partial) confirmation ofODonnells report, Brown points out that "one need not reject this story out of hand...to doubt that it wasa firm statement of Kennedys intentions in Vietnam. Like many politicians, JFK was inclined to tellpeople what they wanted to hear." Every serious historian discounts such reports for the same reason:"Kennedy probably told [Mansfield] what he wanted to hear," Thomas Paterson observes. The sameholds for other recollections, authentic or not, by political figures and journalists. Go to the next segment.12Lewis and others, see MC, 170f. Kann, WSJ, Sept. 9, 1992. Michael Elliott, BG, Oct. 27, 1991. G&M,Feb. 27, 1992.13 See MC, ch. 5.5.2, App. 3.14 Brown, JFK, 34ff.15 ODonnell, Johnny, cited by Newman, JFK and Vietnam, 322f. Also Schlesinger, RFK, 711-2.16Newman, JFK, 324; Schlesinger, RFK, 712. Note that withdrawal had begun a month earlier, withample publicity. Possibly Mansfield had forgotten. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s04.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:46 PM]
  • 127. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [5/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 5/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetWhatever else he may have been, Kennedy was a political animal, and knew enough to tell the SenateMajority Leader and other influential people what they wanted to hear. He was also keenly sensitive tothe opposition to his policies among powerful Senators, who saw them as harmful to US interests. Theinternal record reveals that Kennedy left decisions on Vietnam largely in the hands of his advisers. Hisown interventions express his "increasing concern" over the "need to make [an] effective case withCongress for continued prosecution of the war," and to ensure that congressional condemnation ofDiems repression "not end up with a resolution requiring that we reduce aid" (September 1963). As forthe media, "The way to confound the press is to win the war."17Kennedy was also aware that public support for the war was thin, as were McNamara, Hilsman, andothers. A year later, LBJ won the election largely because of his outspoken opposition to expanding thewar. But JFK never saw the general discontent among the public, press, and Congress as an opportunityto construct a popular base for withdrawal; rather, he sought to counter it with extremist rhetoric aboutthe grand stakes. Like McNamara, he hoped to bring the war to a successful end before discontentinterfered with this plan. Had he intended to withdraw, he would also have leaped at the opportunityprovided by the GVN call for reduction of forces (even outright withdrawal), and its moves towardpolitical settlement. As for the right-wing, a President intent on withdrawal would have called uponhighly-respected military figures for support, including the most revered figures of the far right.The post-Tet ODonnell-Mansfield version is that JFK intended to begin withdrawal in January 1964, butto complete it only after his election, so as to fend off "another Joe McCarthy scare." Even apart from thetotal lack of supporting evidence (and the ample counterevidence), this story is hardly credible. Nothingwould have been better calculated to fan right-wing hysteria than inflammatory rhetoric about the cosmicissues at stake, public commitment to stay the course combined with withdrawal from that commitmentas the client regime collapsed in 1964, election on the solemn promise to stand firm come what may, andthen completion of the withdrawal and betrayal. That plan would have been sheer stupidity. HadKennedy intended to withdraw, he would have at least considered, and probably pursued, the course justoutlined. But there is no hint in the record that he gave that possibility a moments thought. Rather, hechose to enflame jingoist passions. The conclusions, again, seem rather clear.The post-Tet recollections many years after the alleged conversations are subject to further question.Mansfield had not called for "complete military withdrawal," so it is not possible for JFK to have agreedwith him on this. His actual advice was highly qualified: the US should undertake a very limitedwithdrawal as a "symbolic gesture" to warn Diem to get to business and win the war. And he explicitlyopposed withdrawal as LBJ took over. Furthermore, JFK rejected Mansfields major recorded advice: todesist from public rhetoric about the great stakes in Indochina. The post-Tet recollections are notconsistent with the internal record. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s05.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:48 PM]
  • 128. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [5/15Far more credible, if one chooses to take such material seriously, is General Wheelers recollection in1964 (not years later, in a period of ideological reconstruction) that Kennedy was interested in extendingthe war to North Vietnam.Furthermore, ODonnells and Mansfields belated accounts are virtually meaningless, even if taken atface value. JFKs qualified endorsement of the McNamara-Taylor recommendations on withdrawal wasmade public at once. Perhaps, years later, Mansfield and ODonnell had forgotten the withdrawal plansthat were prominently published; recall that these seemed so insignificant to JFKs close associates andchroniclers that they scarcely mention them, if at all. The only novelty in these private communicationswould have been if JFK had stated that he knew that the optimistic assessments were false, and wasgoing to withdraw anyway, which is, indeed, the way these alleged communications are interpreted byNewman, Schlesinger, and other post-Tet advocates of the withdrawal-without-victory thesis. On athread that thin, one can hang nothing.Despite such obvious flaws, the ODonnell-Mansfield stories are taken very seriously by Kennedyhagiographers.The Camelot memoirists proceeded to revise their earlier versions after Tet, separating JFK (and byimplication, themselves) from what had happened. Sorenson was the first. In the earlier version, Kennedywas preparing for the introduction of combat troops if necessary and intended to "weather it out" comewhat may, not abandoning his ally, who would have collapsed without large-scale US intervention.Withdrawal is not discussed. Diplomacy is considered a threat, successfully overcome by the overthrowof the Diem government. But post-Tet, Sorenson is "convinced" that JFK would have sought diplomaticalternatives in 1965 -- with the client regime in still worse straits, as he notes. Furthermore, forunexamined reasons, JFK would have made a more realistic cost-benefit analysis than did his trustedassociates, who continued to run the war for LBJ as they had for him. "I believe he would have devotedincreasing time...in the winter of 1963-1964 and found an answer" to the question of how to get out ofVietnam, Sorenson says, not telling us what this answer might have been as the US-GVN positionrapidly deteriorated, and not recalling his own advice to LBJ while he was still on the White House staff:to avoid any hint of wavering in the pursuit of victory because of the enormous stakes (January 1964).The October 1963 withdrawal plan, unmentioned in the old version, assumes great significance inSorensons post-Tet revision. Kennedy "did authorize, as an indication of his goal, the October 1963statement by McNamara and Taylor predicting a withdrawal of most American military advisors by theend of 1965, beginning late in 1963," Sorenson writes, failing to add that in 1965 he [Sorenson] hadfound these steps unworthy of mention, that Kennedy refused to commit himself to the plan, thatwithdrawal was explicitly contingent on military success, and that the plan called for intensification ofthe war and stood alongside the effort to replace Diem if he would not "focus on winning the war" asJFK demanded. Sorenson also says that Kennedy "made it very clear that any suggestion from the Saigongovernment that our forces were unwelcome would start them `on their way home...the day after it wassuggested." That JFK made such statements is true; that he and his associates regarded such suggestionswith dismay and sought to block them in every way is also true, as we have seen.18 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s05.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:48 PM]
  • 129. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [5/15Arthur Schlesinger entered the lists in 1978 with his biography of Robert Kennedy. Unlike Sorenson, hedoes not confine himself to speculation about JFKs intent. Rather, he constructs a new history, radicallyrevising his own earlier version.19 Go to the next segment.17 Paterson, Kennedys Quest, 21. FRUSV, IV 254, 192 (167), 281.18 Sorenson, Kennedy Legacy, 204-8; also Kennedy, 657.19Schlesinger, RFK, ch. 31. Chapter 32 is devoted to RFK and Vietnam in the post-assassination years,with a look backwards as well. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s05.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:48 PM]
  • 130. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [6/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 6/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetIn the pre-Tet history, General MacArthurs views merit a passing phrase as an "opinion" offered thePresident. There is no indication that JFK paid the slightest attention; they are not mentioned in the 600pages that follow. In the post-Tet version, we read: In late April, Kennedy discovered an unexpected ally -- General Douglas MacArthur, who assured him that it would indeed be a "mistake" to fight in Southeast Asia. "He thinks," the President dictated in a rare aide-mémoire, "our line should be Japan, Formosa and the Philippines... He said that the `chickens are coming home to roost from Eisenhowers years and I live in the chicken coop."By April 1992, we discover that A Thousand Days had recorded JFKs "delight in General MacArthursopposition to a land war in Asia," a surprise to the reader of the earlier version.20Pre-Tet, it was JFK and Arthur Schlesinger who rejoiced over the defeat of "aggression" in Vietnam in1962. Post-Tet, it is the New York Times that absurdly denounces "Communist `aggression in Vietnam,"while "Kennedy was determined to stall." And though RFK did call for victory over the aggressors in1962, he was deluded: he was following "the party line as imparted to him by McNamara and Taylor,"failing to understand the huge gap between the Presidents views and the McNamara-Taylor party line --which Schlesinger had attributed to the President, with his own endorsement, in the pre-Tet version. Thepost-Tet revision offers no explanation for these innovations, or for JFKs decision to delegateresponsibility to run the war to one of the men who peddled the party line he so disdained, whilepromoting the other to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- a curious reaction to their betrayal of thePresidents cause.The doves are identified as Harriman, Hilsman, and Forrestal, who called for counterinsurgency andsocial reform, not escalation. Nothing is said about their doctrine that "there are no quitters here" or theiractual role in the Kennedy Administration, reviewed earlier; or their later thoughts as optimisticassessments changed. True, all the details were not in the public domain in 1978, though enough was;and it is hard to believe that an Administration insider would not have had at least the general picture.21In the post-Tet version, the Joint Chiefs join the New York Times, McNamara, and Taylor as extremistsundermining the Presidents moderate policies. Commenting on JCS Chairman General LymanLemnitzers invocation of the "well-known commitment to take a forthright stand against Communism inSoutheast Asia," Schlesinger writes sardonically that "For the Chiefs the commitment may have been`well-known. But they had thus far failed in their efforts to force it on the President" -- who regularlyvoiced it in still more strident terms. Many examples have been cited, including Schlesingers own reportof the Presidents fears of upsetting "the whole world balance" if the US were to retreat in Vietnam. Or, http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s06.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:50 PM]
  • 131. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [6/15we may recall JFKs summer 1963 comment on the need to establish a "stable government" in SouthVietnam and to support its "struggle to maintain its national independence": "for us to withdraw fromthat effort would mean a collapse not only of South Vietnam but Southeast Asia. So we are going to staythere." These were "temperate words" in Schlesingers pre-Tet version. Compare Lemnitzer.22In his laudatory 1992 review of Newmans book, Schlesinger joins Newman in casting blame on militarycrazies. Both cite what Schlesinger calls "a hysterical [January] 1962 memorandum" (and Newmandescribes as "extraordinary") in which the Joint Chiefs predict "that `the fall of South Vietnam toCommunist control would mean the eventual Communist domination of all of the Southeast Asianmainland and that most of Asia would capitulate to what the military still stubbornly called the `Sino-Soviet Bloc." "Such hyperbole confirmed Kennedys low opinion of the military," Schlesinger writes.Checking back to the pre-Tet version, we read that it was JFKs State Department that babbled on aboutthe "Sino-Soviet Bloc" while Kennedy in 1963 regarded China as the "long-term danger to the peace";the USSR, in contrast, was merely the "monolithic and ruthless conspiracy" intent on world conquest.The Chiefs "hyperbole" about South Vietnam, furthermore, sounds pretty tame in comparison to JFKsown rhetoric, as we have seen.23To illustrate Kennedys moderation and concern for social reform in contrast to the military, Schlesingercites the 1956 speech quoted earlier (page 45), excising its inflammatory content, which George Balldescribed as "one of [JFKs] more purple passages" with "a whole bagful of well-worn metaphors" aboutdominos and huge stakes.24In Schlesingers pre-Tet book on John F. Kennedy (1965, 1967), there was only a bare mention ofwithdrawal plans, with no indication that JFK had ever considered the matter (recall that the basic factswere public knowledge). There is no hint that anyone considered withdrawal without victory. In his 1966"anti-war" book The Bitter Heritage, still pre-Tet, Schlesinger rejects withdrawal outright, upholdingJFKs banner, he claims.The post-Tet biography of Robert Kennedy (1978) is radically different. Here JFKs alleged withdrawalplans merit a full chapter, even though the book is not devoted to JFK but to his brother, whose"involvement in Vietnam had been strictly limited before Dallas" and "was nonexistent" after,Schlesinger tells us. This startling difference between the pre- and post-Tet versions is not attributed toany significant new information, indeed is not mentioned at all. Schlesingers explanation for the chapteron withdrawal is that "because [RFK] later had to struggle with his brothers Vietnam legacy, it isessential to understand what that legacy was." Perhaps. But one would then want to know why the legacyappears nowhere in the pre-Tet publications.In 1992, Schlesinger went a step further, claiming that he had put forth the JFK withdrawal thesis allalong.25 Go to the next segment. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s06.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:50 PM]
  • 132. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [6/1520 See note 1.21Schlesinger refers to Hilsmans hawkish August 30, 1963 memorandum, omitting its mostinflammatory content (RFK, 720; see p. 00, above). He reports Hilsmans private statement to himdiscounting it as a response to a query by Rusk that offered "the whole range of possible responses." Thedocument in fact proposes a single "U.S. Response" to each of the "Possible Diem-Nhu moves," eachsuch response having several components; they are not presented as alternatives, indeed could not be,given the wording.22 1000 Days, 902-3.23 Review of Newman (see ch. 1, n. 39); 1000 Days, 825. On Schlesingers review, see LL, letter 17.24 RFK, 701; Ball, Past, 364.25 Review of Newman. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s06.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:50 PM]
  • 133. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [7/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 7/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetPost-Tet, the October 1963 decisions, emerging from their earlier obscurity, become "the first applicationof Kennedys phased withdrawal plan," as Kennedy masterfully withstands efforts by his aides to deepenthe US commitment, to limit his flexibility, and to delete any reference to troop withdrawal(Schlesingers sources are oral reports, with little relation to the documentary record, imaginativereadings apart; the New York Times account of 1963 was more informative). JFKs plan to withdraw,unmentioned before, now serves as prime evidence that he had separated himself from the two main"schools": the advocates of counterinsurgency and the purveyors of the McNamara-Taylor "party line."He was opposed to "both win-the-war factions, ...vaguely searching for a nonmilitary solution." Hisundeviating public call for winning the war is apparently to be understood as a ploy to deflect the right-wing; his equally insistent call for victory in the internal record is unmentioned.Overriding the objection of the Chiefs, Schlesinger writes, in July 1962 "Kennedy instructed McNamarato start planning for the phased withdrawal of American military personnel"; in the pre-Tet version, weread only about the optimism of Harkins and McNamara in mid-1962, with no mention of anywithdrawal plan (896). Post-Tet, the July 1962 instructions were the origin of the October 1963 plan,which, for the President, put a limit on escalation and was "the reserve plan for extrication," though thedisruptive generals saw it only "as a means of putting pressure on Diem" -- as did Mansfield and otherdoves, and Schlesinger in his marginal pre-Tet reference to McNamaras recommendation.As we have already seen, the July 1962 instructions were predicated on the assumption that victory waswithin reach and that any delay beyond 1965 would make it difficult to contain domestic opposition tothe war. In short, JFKs goal was withdrawal after victory -- by mid-1965, McNamara thought, though tothe end, JFK remained unwilling to commit himself. The top military command disagreed only in thatthey were more optimistic, expecting to wind it up in a year. All this is omitted, though the basic factswere available in the Pentagon Papers.Continuing with the post-Tet version, Schlesinger writes that by 1963, withdrawal was turning from a"precaution...into a preference." That is what "the evidence suggests." What the evidence actuallysuggests is that withdrawal was always a preference, but only after victory; and so it remained in 1963.The evidence that Schlesinger cites is the ODonnell-Mansfield material, already discussed. His onlyfurther evidence is Kennedys public statement in September 1963 that "it is their war. They are the oneswho have to win it or lose it...." Recall that this point was made to the President by his top militarycommander in Vietnam, General McGarr, in February 1962, and was reiterated after the assassination byLBJ, McNamara, and Generals Westmoreland and Taylor. By the same logic, they must have sharedJFKs secret intent.By late summer of 1963, the post-Tet version continues, "Kennedy was still playing out his public hand http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s07.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:53 PM]
  • 134. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [7/15while secretly wondering how to get out" -- so secretly that no trace is left in the record and his closestassociates knew nothing about it; the "public hand" was the inflammatory rhetoric that could only serveto undermine withdrawal. On November 14, Schlesinger reports, Kennedy told a press conference"somewhat confusedly" that the upcoming Honolulu conference would focus on "how we can intensifythe struggle, how we can bring Americans out of there. Now that is our object, to bring Americanshome." The confusion results from "Kennedys private determination to begin, at whatever cost, astrategy of extrication," a doctrine for which not a particle of evidence has been adduced. With thatdoctrine abandoned, JFKs statement unconfusedly reflects his awareness of domestic discontent and hiscommitment to intensify the war and withdraw after victory, explicit in the internal and public record.Schlesinger notes that "In May 1963 Nhu proposed publicly that the United States start withdrawing itstroops," adding that "sooner or later we Vietnamese will settle our differences between us." He reportsinaccurately that Nhus hints about treating with Hanoi were not "taken seriously in either Saigon orWashington" (citing William Bundy); the record shows that they were taken quite seriously, and were afactor in the Kennedy Administration decision to overthrow the government. "No one knew then whetherthe explorations had any reality," Schlesinger adds correctly, without, however, giving the reason: JFKand his advisers feared that these explorations had all too much reality, and acted to destroy the threat,another crucial fact that undermines the withdrawal-without-victory thesis. A "Diem-Ho deal could havebeen the means of an American exit from Vietnam in 1963," Schlesinger correctly observes, so that "Anopportunity of some sort was perhaps missed" -- though not because of ignorance, as he suggests. Rather,it was understood that such a deal would force the US to withdraw without victory.Post-Tet, Schlesinger adopts the thesis that the assassination of the President led to a dramatic reversal ofpolicy.26 He argues that LBJ abandoned JFKs withdrawal plans at once, shifting to escalation. Hisevidence is the opening paragraph of NSAM 273 of November 27: It remains the central objective of the United States in South Vietnam to assist the people and Government of that country to win their contest against the externally directed and supported communist conspiracy.Schlesinger highlights these words to show that LBJ was undertaking "both the total commitmentKennedy had always refused and the diagnosis of the conflict" that Kennedy had "never quite accepted."The highlighted words appear regularly in both the public and private Kennedy record, as does thediagnosis; numerous examples have already been given, including JFKs own demand that everyone must"focus on winning the war." The draft of NSAM 273 written before the assassination by Kennedys topadvisers, expressing his policies, opens with the same paragraph.27 The October 2 White House statementapproving the McNamara-Taylor recommendations is hardly different. The hidden meanings andimplications are in the eye of the beholder. Go to the next segment. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s07.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:53 PM]
  • 135. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [7/1526 RFK, 725f.27 In both, the word "object" appears instead of "objective." http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s07.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:53 PM]
  • 136. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [8/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 8/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetSchlesinger also claims that by emphasizing that American military programs "should be maintained atlevels as high as those in the time of the Diem regime," NSAM 273 "nullified Kennedys extricationintent." His source is the Pentagon Papers analysis (III, 18), which makes clear that it is the aid programsthat are being discussed and that the statement "served to indicate continuance by the new President ofpolicies already agreed upon." Schlesingers source continues: "The objectives of the United States withrespect to the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement ofOctober 2, 1963." As noted, that White House public statement had also emphasized that "Major U.S.assistance" would be maintained as long as needed by the client regime. The phrase Schlesinger citesfrom NSAM 273 nullifies no "extrication intent," in fact changes nothing.Schlesingers account of what followed is hardly more persuasive. Thus he cites a high-level Kennedyofficial as writing that the Kennedy brothers "regarded Vietnam as a massive source of vexation andconcern but not as intrinsically important in itself -- only as a counter in a larger game." These words,which Schlesinger again highlights, are supposed to prove that "As civilized, well-educated Americansthey were totally devoid of the obsessive attitudes that characterized President Johnson under theinfluence of the `hard-liners"; the wording expresses the boundless contempt of the Kennedyintellectuals for the boorish Texas interloper defacing the elegance of Camelot. The cited phrase is from1970, post-Tet; a page earlier, Schlesinger had quoted a letter from RFK to Johnson in June 1964 inwhich he described Vietnam as "obviously the most important problem facing the United States."28 Asfor the "obsessive attitudes" expressed by JFK and his top advisers, enough has already been said.Finally, it was Kennedys personally-chosen and trusted senior advisers who were influencing LBJ anddirecting his war, with his brothers firm support, until things began to go awry.Schlesinger elaborates in his 1992 review of Newmans book. Endorsing Newmans "withdrawal withoutvictory" thesis, Schlesinger writes that he himself had made the same point in his A Thousand Days,where he reported JFKs view that "it was a Vietnamese war. If we converted it into a white mans war,we would lose." He does not mention that LBJ later made similar remarks: we do not want "ourAmerican boys to do the fighting for Asian boys," he proclaimed during the 1964 election campaign --not quite the same as the JFK-Schlesinger version because for LBJ, it was a point of principle, while forJFK-Schlesinger, it was sheer expedience, a question of how to win. Furthermore, as noted, the samepoint had been made by the military command before and after. The sharp pre- vs. post-Tet contrastagain passes unexamined.The third pre-Tet Kennedy memoirist, Roger Hilsman, has written several letters to the press respondingto critics of the withdrawal thesis, in the course of its 1991-1992 revival. In them, he takes a strongerstand on JFKs intent to withdraw than in his pre-Tet discussion.29 But a close reading shows thatHilsman is careful to evade the crucial questions. He says that JFK wanted to withdraw, which is http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s08.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:55 PM]
  • 137. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [8/15undeniable; so did Rostow and LeMay -- after victory. He says also that JFK was determined not to let itbecome an American war. The same is true generally of his advisers, who then did just that ascircumstances drastically changed, leaving them no other choice, they concluded, on the premises theyshared with JFK. While serving in the LBJ Administration, Hilsman largely agreed, as we have seen.Hilsmans current interventions skirt the issues, only clouding them further.Consider Hilsmans latest intervention in the debate, as I write.30 Here he addresses the charge that hewaited until 1992 to make it public "that President Kennedy intended to withdraw from Vietnam." Nottrue, Hilsman responds. Kennedy himself had made this clear in his news conference of September 2,1963, in which he said that "In the final analysis it is their war. They have to win it or lose it." After theassassination, he continues, Johnson "made it clear to people in his administration dealing with Vietnamthat he had dropped Kennedys last three words": that is, he would not allow the war to be lost. Hilsmanthen refers to his objections to LBJs decision to bomb North Vietnam, offered "most extensively" in his1967 book. He claims further that "it is difficult to make yourself heard," alleging suppression by mediaand historians of Hilsmans efforts to inform them "that Kennedy, before his death, had begun toimplement a plan to withdraw from Vietnam." Defense rests.Note that Hilsman adduces no evidence that Kennedy intended to withdraw from Vietnam withoutvictory, the only point at issue. The charge of suppression is not particularly convincing; surely Hilsmancould have found some journal willing to allow him a few words. That aside, he had nothing to makepublic: the initiation of the withdrawal plan had been prominently reported in October 1963, less fully inhis 1967 book. Furthermore, his objections to LBJs bombing in that book are hardly "extensive." Indeedthey are quite pallid, as we have seen; hardly a surprise, since he himself had called for measuredescalation against the North while serving in the JFK and LBJ Administrations. Finally, consider theclaim that LBJ dropped the last three words in JFKs statement that "They have to win it or lose it." Toclaim on the basis of these three words that Kennedy intended to withdraw without victory makes asmuch sense as to attribute the same intention to LBJ on the basis of his statement, a year later, opposingthe dispatch of US troops. Or to attribute the same intention to the top US military command throughout,on the basis of similar statements. That is why Hilsman makes no such claim in his 1967 memoir, inwhich he emphasizes LBJs statement that "We dont want our American boys to do the fighting forAsian boys" to show his "sincere" and "desperate" effort to carry out JFKs plans. Recall also Hilsmansobservation in his 1967 book that 10 days after the three-word deletion on which he now hangs his case,JFKs public commitment to "win the war" and not "see a war lost" became "a policy guideline," as,indeed, he had recognized a few days after in internal planning (see pages 46 and 75).However informative they may be with regard to the tasks of cultural management, the post-Tet revisionsby leading Kennedy intellectuals have no value as history. Rather, they constitute a chapter of culturalhistory, one that is of no slight interest, I believe.The post-Tet reconstruction is highly serviceable, therefore likely to endure irrespective of fact, at leastin circles that derive their inspiration and imagery from Camelot. By early 1993, it was gaining the statusof background information. Thus in reviewing a biography of Robert McNamara in the Boston Globe,Robert Kuttner writes that though McNamara had been "taken in by the bogus statistics supplied by Gen. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s08.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:55 PM]
  • 138. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [8/15Paul Harkins," by late 1963 his "powers of skepticism revived." "With Kennedy, he embraced a plan toincrease assistance but turn the show over to the Vietnamese, win or lose, by 1965."In the biography under review, Deborah Shapley is much more cautious. McNamara told her that he andKennedy had agreed to withdraw without victory, Shapley writes, but she found herself suspecting that"his sincere belief that Kennedy would have gotten out of Vietnam was something he arrived at laterwhen the war had become tragic and traumatic for him and the nation." His "reverence for JohnKennedy" might have led him "to self-deceive, to believe that his hero and mentor would have wiselyguided them out." "No hard evidence for McNamaras claim has come to light." "Hard evidence" issubstantial, but as we have seen, it consistently undermines the claim. Shapley writes that McNamara andKennedy "may have had a different, private agenda"; her sources are Newman and Schlesingers"interesting theory" of 1978, concocted without a shred of evidence or a word about the still moreinteresting pre-Tet silence. All other sources cited are post-Tet, in part second-hand: privatereminiscences of 1970 (Gilpatric) and 1986 (McNamara), and current interviews.31In short, the belief remains pure faith, held in the face of abundant counter-evidence from every relevantsource. Go to the next segment.28 RFK, 728-9.29Hilsman, letter, NYT, Jan. 20; TLS, April 3, 1992 (responding to Grenier; cf. note 1); letter, Tikkun,Summer 1992.30Ibid. The "news conference" appears to be the Cronkite TV interview; To Move a Nation, 497, wherethe wording is given slightly differently.31 Kuttner, BG, Jan. 17, 1993. Shapley, Promise, 262f. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s08.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:55 PM]
  • 139. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [9/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 9/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet3. The Hero-Villain ScenarioThe withdrawal-without-victory thesis is typically understood to subsume a second one: that LBJimmediately reversed policy from withdrawal to escalation; NSAM 263 (October 11) and NSAM 273(November 26, with a pre-assassination draft) are commonly adduced in evidence, but they sustain nosuch conclusion. The major effort to establish the dual thesis is John Newmans book. As noted, this "tenyear study" received much attention and praise, over a broad spectrum. It was the basis for the influentialOliver Stone film JFK, and is taken by much of the left to be a definitive demonstration of the twintheses. The book was strongly endorsed by Arthur Schlesinger, who describes it as a "solid contribution,"with its "straightforward and workmanlike, rather military...organization, tone and style" and "meticulousand exhaustive examination of documents." Former CIA Director William Colby, who headed the FarEast division of the CIA in 1963-1964, hailed Newmans study of these years as a "brilliant, meticulouslyresearched and fascinating account of the decision-making which led to Americas long agony inVietnam"; Americas agony, in accordance with approved doctrine.32The book is not without interest. It contains some new documentary evidence, which further underminesthe Newman-Schlesinger thesis when extricated from the chaotic jumble of materials interlarded withhighlighted phrases that demonstrate nothing, confident interpretations of private intentions and beliefs,tales of intrigue and deception of extraordinary scale and complexity, so well-concealed as to leave notrace in the record, and conclusions that become more strident as the case collapses before the authorseyes. By the end, he claims that the National Security Council meetings of 1961 "more than resolve thequestion" of whether Kennedy would have sent combat troops under the radically different circumstancesfaced by his advisers in 1965, a conclusion that captures accurately the level of argument.Newmans basic contention seems to be that JFK was surrounded by evil advisers who were trying tothwart his secret plan to withdraw without victory, though unaccountably, he kept giving them moreauthority and promoting them to higher positions, perhaps because he didnt understand them. Thus JFKthought that Taylor was "the one general...who shared his own views and that he could, therefore, trust tocarry out his bidding." Shamelessly deceived, JFK therefore placed him in charge of the Special Groupon counterinsurgency, promoted him to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and relied on him until the end,though Taylor was undermining him at every turn; Taylor became "the second most powerful person inthe White House," Newman observes, making no attempt to resolve the paradox. From the beginning, the"record leaves the reader with the unforgettable image of a President pitted against his own advisors andthe bureaucracy that served under him."33There are a few "good guys," but in the chaos, it is hard to be sure who they are: perhaps Harriman,Forrestal, Hilsman, and McNamara, though even they joined the malefactors who beset our hero on every http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s09.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:58 PM]
  • 140. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [9/15side (Harriman and Hilsman "mired Kennedy in a plot to overthrow Diem" [346], etc.). McNamaras rolein these imaginative constructions is particularly intriguing. On November 26, 1961, Newman explains,Kennedy took command of officialdom in the "Thanksgiving Day Massacre," carrying out "a sweepingchange of personnel" so that his own men would be in a position to implement his plans. "The personwho emerged that day as Kennedys point man on the Vietnam War was Robert Strange McNamara" --who, at a meeting three weeks earlier, had taken a prominent role in favor of deploying US militaryforces in Vietnam, and was "still anticipating a decision to commit U.S. combat forces," as he advocated,on November 13. On November 26, McNamara was therefore made "personally responsible" forexecuting the Presidents policies. And so he did, we read: McNamara "was determined to execute theCommander-in-Chiefs intent: a genuine withdrawal from Vietnam" (October 1963). As in the case ofTaylors rise to the top, no explanation is given for these curious shifts and decisions, or for McNamarasrole under LBJ.34The withdrawal-without-victory thesis rests on the assumption that Kennedy realized that the optimisticmilitary reports were incorrect -- or, as Newman claims, an elaborate effort to deceive the President.Newmans treatment of this issue is therefore central to the story.Closely paraphrasing the account in the Pentagon Papers, reviewed above, he describes the July 1962events as the beginning of "the lengthy paper trail on the Kennedy withdrawal plan for Vietnam." Bythen, he writes, "The Americans were ready to declare victory and come home," and expected to bring"the Vietnam problem `to a successful conclusion within a reasonable time." McNamara gave Harkinsinstructions to "come up with a plan to wrap things up and come home" (Newman). Harkins consideredthe war almost over, but McNamara urged that "we must assume the worst," taking the "conservativeview" that "it will take three years instead of one year" and making plans accordingly. Unequivocally, thegoal was withdrawal after victory, by 1965.Into the fall of 1962, Newman writes, "the deception was working, and Kennedy, like McNamara, hadcome to believe the perception delivered by the uninterrupted string of false reports emanating fromVietnam." But by March 1963, JFK had "figured out...that the success story was a deception." There is"hard evidence" for this, he claims, citing an NBC documentary eight months later that questioned theoptimistic intelligence reports. The remainder of the evidence is that "in his heart he must have known"that the military program was a failure. Unlike his advisers (at least, those not in on the various"deceptions"), Kennedy "had to notice when the military myth was shaken by Bowles and Mendenhall inlate 1962," and by Mansfields pessimism. "When the drama of the Wheeler versus Hilsman-Forrestalmatch ended up in his office in February 1963, the implication that the story of success was untrue couldno longer be overlooked" (by JFK, uniquely); the "drama" is the difference of judgment as to the timescale for victory, already reviewed (see pages 69-71).These conclusions are presented on faith. A closer look shaves the sliver of evidence even further.Consider the timing. We read that "By the fall of 1962 the deception was working," but JFK "had tonotice" the reports of Bowles and Mendenhall "in late 1962" -- in fact, in August 1962. Putting thatproblem aside, both of these reports are ambiguous, and Mendenhalls, as Newman notes, "did not gohigher than the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs"; it is unclear, then, how JFK http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s09.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:58 PM]
  • 141. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [9/15"had to notice" it. As for Bowles, he had been cut out of policymaking sectors long before. Unmentionedis the further fact that Bowles visited Vietnam in July 1963 and sent a highly confidential report toMcGeorge Bundy, which, in this case, the President may have seen. Bowles wrote that "the militarysituation is steadily improving" although "the political situation is rapidly deteriorating," repeating thestandard view. He also warned that "We cannot achieve our objectives in Southeast Asia as long as Diemand his family run Vietnam." He recommended that the US support someone who will "overthrow Diem"and send "U.S. special service troops and advisors into Laos to beef up and train the best Laotian troops,"using Thai mercenaries and ARVN as well for this purpose; he also appears to be calling for Thailand tooccupy part of northwestern Laos, though some sentences are not declassified. With "a bit of luck," wemay "turn the tide" and "lay the basis for a far more favorable situation in Southeast Asia than seemedpossible a few months ago."35On these grounds, we are to conclude that JFK alone understood that official optimism was unwarranted. Go to the next segment.32Colby, jacket cover. On the reaction to Newmans "examination of documents" by the first historian tocheck his files, see ch. 1, n. 92.33 Newman, JFK, 457, 127, 180, 49. See p. 367 for a sample of Taylors alleged treachery.34 Ibid., 141, 137, 154, 147.35 Ibid., 285f., 319f., 290-1. FRUSV, III 518f. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s09.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:14:58 PM]
  • 142. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [10/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 10/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetCuriously, there actually is one bit of evidence that supports the desired conclusion, but Newman andother advocates of the thesis do not make use of it. Recall that at the NSC meeting considering theMcNamara-Taylor recommendations, Kennedy dissociated himself from the plan to withdraw 1000personnel because he did not want to be "accused of being over optimistic" in case the military situationdid not make withdrawal feasible. He allowed the sentence on withdrawal to remain only if attributed toMcNamara and Taylor, without his acquiescence. In public too he was more hesitant about thewithdrawal plan than the military command, as we have seen. One might argue, then, that JFK did notshare the optimism of his advisers, and was therefore unwilling to commit himself to withdrawal. Thisconclusion has two merits not shared by the thesis we are examining: (1) it has some evidence to supportit; (2) it conforms to the general picture of Kennedys commitment to military victory provided by theinternal record.Newman takes a different course, however, asserting that JFK "had disassociated himself from theoptimistic McNamara-Taylor timetable because he could not yet know whether his withdrawal would beconducted under a winning or a losing battlefield situation." Whatever this is supposed to mean, Newmanignores the reason Kennedy actually gave: that "if we were not able to take this action by the end of thisyear, we would be accused of being over optimistic." This treatment of the evidence illustrates Newmanstechnique precisely. Given the dogma that JFK planned to withdraw without victory, all evidence to thecontrary proves that he was being "brilliant...and duplicitous," cleverly concealing from his top advisersthe truth about what was "in his heart." Adopting the same procedure, Newman concludes that "Kennedydecided, apparently...in February or March 1963, to get out of Vietnam even if it meant the war would belost." Evidence is nil, and counterevidence substantial, but irrelevant, thanks to the analytic technique.To establish his thesis, Newman ignores the internal record of JFKs interventions and relies heavily (inthe end, almost exclusively) on ODonnells 1972 report and Mansfields later comments (1975, 1978).ODonnells story, Newman writes, "makes it abundantly clear that Kennedy knew the war was a lostcause, and that his problem was how to disguise his intentions until after the election." Newman declaresfurther that "there is no doubt that Kennedy made these confidential remarks" reported by Mansfield andODonnell. These remarks must therefore be placed "side by side" with JFKs public comments, which,Newman agrees, flatly contradict them. When we compare the public comments and the "confidentialremarks" to ODonnell and Mansfield, Newman writes, "the purpose for his remarks at these pressconferences become [sic] clear: they were calculated to throw off his political opponents and thesupporters of massive U.S. intervention."36Contrary to this remarkable reasoning, there is ample reason to be skeptical about these post-Tetreconstructions years after the alleged conversations. They are furthermore implausible and largelymeaningless, hence discounted by historians generally. They do not begin to compare in significance http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s10.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:00 PM]
  • 143. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [10/15with the extensive internal record and the public statements of the President, which conform to theinternal record, a crucial fact missing from this study. In fact, they are far less significant than the pre-Tetmemoirs and oral history, which Newman also ignores. As for the "calculation" on which the Newman-Schlesinger thesis rests, that makes no sense at all, as already discussed.No more impressive is Newmans faith in a "riveting talk with President Kennedy" described by SenatorWayne Morse ten years later (reported verbatim in the press, and by Newman), in which JFK allegedlytold the Senates leading opponent of the war that he agreed with him. Whatever the plausibility of thestory, it is devoid of significance, for reasons understood by every historian: a President may well tell aninfluential Senator in private what he would like to hear, while heeding other voices.37Newmans tale is woven from dark hints and "intrigue," with "webs of deception" at every level. Subtitlesread: "A DECEPTION WITHIN THE DECEPTION," "THE DEEPENING WEB OF DECEPTION,""THE DECEIVERS AND THE DECEIVED," etc. The military were deceiving Kennedys associateswho were deceiving Kennedy, while he in turn was deceiving the public and his advisers, and many weredeceiving themselves. At least, I think that is what the story is supposed to be; it is not easy to tell in thislabyrinth of fancy.LBJ is portrayed as one of the really bad guys, in conformity with the thesis of a sharp policy changeafter the assassination (or worse, according to the darker version). The evidence? On intervention inLaos, "ONLY LBJ SUPPORTED [Admiral] BURKE," a section heading reads, supported only byBurkes recollection in oral history 6 years later that LBJ said "he thought I had something, but that wasbecause he spoke first, perhaps."38Later comes an "intrigue" too intricate to unravel that is supposed to show how LBJ put one over on theunsuspecting JFK, advancing the nefarious plan to introduce combat troops. The plot only thickens whenwe find that LBJs recommendation was: "do not get bogged down, Mr. President, in a land war inSoutheast Asia" (Johnsons military aide Colonel Burris). There is an "inconsistency," Newmanconcedes, offering an explanation supported only by the need to establish LBJs devious role.Complicating the matter further, "Johnson chose to distance himself from the combat troops idea whilesimultaneously advocating a commitment that might well require they be sent in the future" (exactly likehis boss), perhaps exploiting Kennedys "impulsive innocence." LBJs written report to the President"finessed the ticklish problem of U.S. combat troops by saying this might have to be faced at `somepoint," Newman writes. LBJ wrote that "Asian leaders do not want them `at this time...Combat troopswere not required or desirable..." A subtle rascal, "Johnson then cleverly avoided a definitive statementon troops by framing the question as a choice between U.S. support or complete disengagement."As a further complication, "Johnson didnt really want to get involved in Vietnam" in the first place(Colonel Burris).In fact, Newman observes, LBJ played no role in Vietnam policy after May 1961. The reason, we aretold with the usual confidence, is that he "went underground" because "He had his own aspirations for http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s10.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:00 PM]
  • 144. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [10/15the White House, and getting out of the limelight was the most prudent thing to do." Maybe, maybe not.Before he went underground, he had been treated with utter contempt, simply ordered to go to Vietnam(where he allegedly carried out his evil plot) over his vociferous objections.39 Go to the next segment.36 Newman, JFK, 410, 321-4.37 Ibid., 423f.38 Ibid., 15f.39 Ibid., 71f., 88ff., 93, 67f. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s10.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:00 PM]
  • 145. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [11/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 11/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetLBJ enters the story again at a White House meeting of August 31, 1963, where he complains that he isnot being informed and expresses doubts about the planned coup, "harsh and aggressive remarks"(actually, mild objections) that "had a chilling effect," as "attested to by the fact that no one said anythingin reply" -- presumably because the Kennedy intellectuals considered him a Texas lout.40The picture of LBJ the sinister plotter is a fundamental part of Newmans theory about the "reversal ofintent with respect to combat troops" as LBJ took the reins after the assassination. Here is Newmanscrucial evidence: A comment that Lyndon Johnson made in December [1963] underlines the far-reaching and profound nature of this reversal and demonstrates how the tragedy of Dallas affected the course of the Vietnam War. While Kennedy had told ODonnell in the spring of 1963 that he could not pull out of Vietnam until he was reelected, "So we had better make damned sure I am reelected," at a White House reception on Christmas eve, a month after he succeeded to the presidency, Lyndon Johnson told the Joint Chiefs: "Just let me get elected and then you can have your war."Truly a dramatic demonstration of a historic reversal -- until we check the source, Stanley Karnowspopular book Vietnam, which is "loosely sourced," Newman observes elsewhere, disparaging it whenKarnow questioned the thesis of the Stone film. Putting aside doubts about reliability and about "whatKennedy had told ODonnell," here is what Newmans source says about LBJ and the White Housereception: [Johnson] knew that Pentagon lobbyists, among the best in the business, could persuade conservatives in Congress to sabotage his social legislation unless he satisfied their demands. As he girded himself for the 1964 presidential campaign, he was especially sensitive to the jingoists who might brand him "soft on Communism" were he to back away from the challenge in Vietnam. So, politician that he was, he assuaged the brass and the braid with promises he may have never intended to keep. At a White House reception on Christmas eve 1963, for example, he told the joint chiefs of staff: "Just let me get elected, and then you can have your war."In short, Karnow attributes to Johnson very much what ODonnell attributes to Kennedy; assuage theright, get elected, and then do what you choose. What LBJ chose was to drag his feet much as JFK haddone. That is Newmans evidence of the "far-reaching and profound nature of this reversal" that changedthe course of history.41 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s11.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:03 PM]
  • 146. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [11/15Newman concedes that JFKs public statements refute his thesis, but thats easily handled, as we haveseen: JFK was cleverly feinting to delude the right by preaching about the high stakes to the generalpublic -- who largely didnt care or were uneasy about the war, as JFK and his advisers knew, and couldonly be aroused to oppose withdrawal by this inflammatory rhetoric.As for the internal record, it reveals only JFKs advocacy of withdrawal after victory is secure, andexhortations to everyone to "focus on winning the war." It reveals further that the failure of the Diem-Nhu regime to show sufficient enthusiasm for that task was a factor in the effort of JFK and his advisersto overthrow it, only enhanced by the Diem-Nhu gestures towards political settlement and theincreasingly insistent calls for US withdrawal. These were regarded as a dangerous threat, not anopportunity to carry out the alleged intent to withdraw. Newman skirts these issues, and nowhereconsiders their import. Nor does he consider the fact that JFK refused to exploit the high-level militaryopposition to the war to fend off the jingoist right. The fact that JFKs closest associates either knewnothing about his secret intentions, or were concealing them with remarkable uniformity (pre-Tet, thatis), also passes without mention. Nor is there an explanation for the fact that the basic principles of JFKspolicies persisted after the assassination, with tactical modifications as dictated by changing assessments,and implemented by Kennedys most trusted advisers, while the most extreme doves among them laudedLBJ for his "wise caution" in rejecting the twin perils of escalation and withdrawal (Mansfield, Ball).The withdrawal policy, Newman contends, can be traced to a JFK comment of April 1962 with"profound implications": he told Harriman and Forrestal that "he wished us to be prepared to seize anyfavorable moment to reduce our commitment, recognizing that the moment might yet be some timeaway" (Newmans emphasis). The "implications" are virtually zero. Note that Newman disagrees withadvocates of the withdrawal thesis who trace JFKs secret plans to a post-missile-crisis conversion. The"institutional origin" of JFKs secret withdrawal plan came in May 1962, Newman continues, whenMcNamara ordered General Harkins to initiate plans to turn "full responsibility over to South Vietnam"and to reduce the US military command -- at a moment of great optimism over the prospects, as Newmanfully concedes, thus pulling the rug out from under his thesis.42Newmans efforts to deal with that problem are not easy to unravel. He asserts that the 1962 optimismwas generated by conscious "deception within deception" by MACV. The military knew the reports ofprogress were false, he claims, and were spinning "webs of deception" to hide the failure of the wareffort from McNamara and the President. Evidence for all of this is zero. Go to the next segment.40 Ibid., 355-6. FRUSV, IV 74.41Newman, JFK, 448-9; Karnow, Vietnam, 326. Newman on Karnow, BG, Jan. 14, 1992. Newmansreferences are often unreliable. Another example is a discussion (408) of John Mecklins reaction to the http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s11.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:03 PM]
  • 147. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [11/15official statement on the McNamara-Taylor proposal of October 1963, which he found "sickening" atfirst but later came to see as a "brilliantly realistic and imaginative" White House plan; in context, thecitation gives the impression that Mecklin recognized JFKs plan for "genuine withdrawal," whereas hewas in fact discussing the "compromise" of a "politician...between the two U.S. factions" that differed onhow best to pressure Diem. Similarly, Newman makes much of the fact that on Nov. 12, 1963, Kennedysaid only that we should stay on in Vietnam until South Vietnam can maintain itself "as a free andindependent country," permitting "democratic forces within the country to operate"; this comes close toadvocating political settlement, Newman states, reflecting the Presidents intention to withdraw. Virtuallythe same statement, also implying nothing of the sort, opens NSAM 52, May 11, 1961 (426; PP, II 642).There are many other examples.42 Newman, JFK, 236, 254. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s11.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:03 PM]
  • 148. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [12/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 12/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetNewmans claim requires some interesting assumptions, given the internal record surveyed earlier. Notonly must MACV have been lying to McNamara and JFK, but the military were lying to one anotherfrom field officers on up, everyone was lying to the CIA who were lying to everyone else, State was inon it, and so on. Discipline has been so remarkable that no trace of this huge "web of deception" appearsin the record, and in 30 years no credible voice has come forth to expose any part of it; unusual, to saythe least. We also have to assume extraordinary stupidity on the part of the Secretary of Defense, theDirector of the CIA, the head of State Department intelligence, and other top advisers of the President --who, alone, "must have known" the truth "in his heart." Newman finds the optimistic projections byHarkins inexplicable (288), implying perhaps (it is hard to be sure) that Harkins was somewhere withinthe webs of deception. He ignores the explanation given by Krepinich, the military historian on whom herelies throughout. Given the plausibility of Krepinichs explanation, Newmans theory of the evil militarycommand conspiring to deceive the isolated peacenik at the helm also fades away -- not to speak of theviews of the military, which he never examines (see chapter 1.13).Though JFK allegedly put his secret plan in motion in early 1962, as of August 26, 1963, Newmanreports, "the most basic questions remained unanswered," specifically, whether to "move our resourcesout or to move our troops in" (Rusk) if the plans to overthrow the Diem-Nhu regime fail. Thealternatives, Newman observes, were stark: "withdrawal while losing or massive American intervention."The choice was not made at the August 26 meeting, or even discussed. JFK raised a few questions,nothing more. What "irresistibly impressed itself on the President," Newman states, was "whether thecoup was necessary to win the war." In short, victory remained the condition for withdrawal.Newman does not report the follow-up meeting on August 28, at which JFK gave his usual answer to the"most basic question." Rejecting both horns of Newmans stark dilemma, JFK urged that everythingshould be done in Washington and Vietnam to "maximize the chances of the rebel generals" to overthrowthe regime. The reason was that without a coup, we "must withdraw" and "cannot win the war" (JFK,Harriman, Hilsman) -- an unacceptable option for the President and his dovish advisers.43We have now reached the end of August, 1963, with evidence for JFKs secret plan nonexistent.Continuing, we find that as of October 2, when the McNamara-Taylor withdrawal recommendationswere presented, "So far, it had been couched in terms of battlefield success." It was not until after theNovember 1 coup that the truth filtered to the top, with a "sudden turnabout of reporting in earlyNovember." "As the Honolulu meeting approached the tide turned toward pessimism as suddenly and asswiftly as the optimistic interlude had begun in early 1962," Newman writes. The participants in theNovember 20 meeting received "shocking military news." "The upshot of the Honolulu meeting," hecontinues, "was that the shocking deterioration of the war effort was presented in detail to thoseassembled, along with a plan to widen the war, while the 1,000-man withdrawal was turned into a http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s12.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:05 PM]
  • 149. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [12/15meaningless paper drill." The fact that prior to the "sudden turn toward pessimism" the entire discussionof withdrawal had been "couched in terms of battlefield success" thoroughly undermines Newmansthesis, as becomes only more clear if we introduce the internal record that he ignores.44The way Newman handles these problems is again instructive. Instead of drawing the obviousconclusions, he marvels at "the irony of the elaborate deception story, begun in early 1962," "originallydesigned" by the military to "forestall Kennedy from a precipitous withdrawal," then reversed by JFK,"judo style -- to justify just that." JFKs plan was "brilliant," "duplicitous," "imaginative"; to be moreaccurate, imaginary, since not a particle of evidence has been offered. As the slender case disappears intothe mist, we find that ODonnells memoir and a few similar post-Tet recollections come to be thedefinitive evidence that JFK intended to withdraw. That he intended to withdraw without victory isproven by his secret thoughts. LBJs sordid plots are demonstrated in the manner reviewed. The factsnow readily fall into place, whatever they may be: they simply illustrate layer upon layer of intrigue anddeception.A few examples illustrate: "what is particularly striking about Kennedys behavior is the length to whichhe went to disguise his intent, and the way in which he used the story of success -- a fiction for which hehad been the target -- against its perpetrators"; "we already know that Kennedy planned to withdrawgradually..." and that his public pose was deception, knowledge granted to us by stipulation; JFKsstrident public call for victory and against withdrawal only "highlights the desperation of his dilemmaand the poignancy of that moment," as he tries to "erect [an] alibi" for his plans, secret from everyone,including his top advisers and closest associates. And so on.We then wander further along paths "shrouded in mystery and intrigue," guided by confident assertionsabout what various participants "knew," "pretended," "felt," "intended," etc. The facts, whatever theymay be, are interpreted so as to conform to the central dogma. Given the rules of the game (deceit,hidden intent, etc.), there can be no counter-argument: evidence refuting the thesis merely shows thedepths of the mystery and intrigue.45Newman discusses the McNamara-Taylor withdrawal proposal, the November 20 Honolulu conference,and the first Johnson document (NSAM 273). Putting aside hidden "intents," "realizations," "apparentfeelings," "webs of deception," etc., his account adds little to the record already reviewed from thePentagon Papers and the official history, and is factually inaccurate.46 I will not pursue the convolutedinterpretations -- in particular, his effort to find a "significant" difference between the draft of NSAM 273and the final version, which falls apart when one examines the record, already reviewed. Nothing lurksbeneath the shrouds.Newmans media role is hardly more impressive. Responding to critics of the movie JFK in the New YorkTimes, he claims that "Kennedys public comments in 1963 are sharply contradicted by his private ones,"which is false, if "private ones" are taken to be those in the internal documentary record, not just the post-Tet reconstructions. He writes that "Recently declassified documents reveal" that Kennedy was "privy tointelligence that exposed optimism about the war to be unfounded." That could be true, as it certainly is http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s12.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:05 PM]
  • 150. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [12/15true for Kennedys advisers. The question is whether anyone accepted these more pessimistic reports, andif so, why they continued to profess optimism in internal discussion; why, as Newman puts it, everythingwas "couched in terms of battlefield success" until the "shocking" revelations after the November 1963coup. But whether true or not, the statement is irrelevant without evidence that JFK understood what allof his associates failed to see. None appears in the book, beyond mystic insight.47 Go to the next segment.43 Ibid., 351f. FRUSV, I 638f., Aug. 26; IV 4f., Aug. 28 (see p. 32, above).44 Newman, JFK, 410, 423-5, 435.45 Ibid., 410, 325, 403, 387, 359.46 Thus Newman traces the planning of "South Vietnamese operations against North Vietnam" to May1963, the "seed" for what became OPLAN 34A "and the secret American actions that led to the Gulf ofTonkin incidents in August 1964." The seeds "sprouted in the November 20 [1963] Honolulu meeting";plans were "scaled back" in the draft prepared for Kennedy, but "the dam broke when NSAM-273 wasrewritten" and adopted on Nov. 27, "the most significant of all the changes" made to the draft (375f.,446f.). This is mostly incorrect. As discussed earlier, covert operations against the North had beenunderway since mid-1962, apparently with US and third country participation, and appear in the internalrecord from Jan. 1963, endorsed in April by Hilsman. NSAM 273 is not different in any relevant wayfrom the draft. Furthermore, the record shows no increased US participation in OPLAN 34A to theTonkin Gulf incident (in fact, denies it), though DE SOTO intelligence patrols were then underway.47 Letter, NYT, March 23, 1992. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s12.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:05 PM]
  • 151. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [13/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 13/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNetIn a Boston Globe op-ed, Newman denounces George Lardner of the Washington Post, who wrote thatNSAM 273 continued JFKs withdrawal policy. Sneering at this "irresponsible journalistic fiction" and"journalistic license," Newman writes that NSAM 273 only referred to "a slippery White Housestatement of October 3, 1963," which conditioned withdrawal on military progress, and "failed to addressthe 1,000 man withdrawal specifically or Kennedys top secret order -- NSAM-263 -- of October 11,1963, which implemented it." In reality, NSAM 263 referred to (and can charitably be taken as callingfor) the implementation of the military recommendations of the McNamara-Taylor report of October 2,all conditioned on victory. NSAM 273 refers to the White House statement of October 2 (not October 3),already cited, which approves the very same proposal. Furthermore, NSAM 273 is identical to the draftprepared for Kennedy in this respect. In his book, going beyond the evidence, Newman writes that inNSAM 263, "Kennedy actually implemented the [McNamara-Taylor] plan, directing that 1,000 men bewithdrawn before the end of the year." But, Newman adds correctly, the condition was "that `no furtherreductions in U.S. strength would be made until the requirements of the 1964 [military] campaigns wereclear." His accurate statement that, "So far, it had been couched in terms of battlefield success,"adequately refutes his own claims in the denunciation of "journalistic license."Continuing the denunciation, Newman claims again that "Kennedys public statements contradicted hisprivate ones," citing only the alleged statements to Congressmen and to ODonnell, which, Newmanasserts, made his intent to withdraw "abundantly clear." Newman falsely claims that the secret record "ismore explicit," citing NSAM 263, which "seems to buttress the case that Kennedy was feinting rightwhile moving left," which it surely does not. He also makes the remarkable claim that in 1961 Kennedyrejected the dispatch of combat troops to Vietnam "when all the arguments that could be mustered forsending them had been made -- the same arguments, incidentally, which led Johnson to approve sendingcombat troops in 1965." The conditions were so radically different that the comparison is meaningless;no one would claim that escalation on the scale of JFKs 1961-1962 moves would have sufficed formilitary victory in 1965.In a lengthy response to a detailed and accurate exposure by Alexander Cockburn of hismisrepresentation of documentary evidence, Newman evades the factual issues raised entirely, preferringsupercilious dismissal of this "loose cannon" who "knows little about this subject" and therefore "hasdistinguished himself by poking fun at serious scholars" with "ad hominem" charges: "it is time to stopjoking around and get serious." We find the same appeal to the "top-secret documentary record" and toJFKs alleged knowledge that "the war was a lost cause." Cockburn is advised "to hit the books for awhile" and study the documents. Perhaps he would do better to study with a good psychic, so he toomight see into JFKs heart.48The hero-villain scenario, and the dual theses on which it rests, are by no means definitively refuted, nor http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s13.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:08 PM]
  • 152. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [13/15could they be; but Newmans efforts diminish their plausibility still further. His injunction "to hit thebooks for a while" is well taken. When we follow it, we find that his theses are undermined at every turn.The primary value of his contribution is to reveal the extraordinary lengths to which it is necessary to goto try to make a case for the theses advanced by Newman, Schlesinger, and a wide range of others.Whatever genre this may be, concern for fact has been left far behind. As in the case of the post-Tetmemoirs, this strange performance and its reception are of some interest, but not as a contribution tohistory: rather, as a chapter of cultural history in the late 20th century.Perhaps a few words might be added on the latest episode, the publication of a book by the man whoserved as the model for Oliver Stones "Deep Throat," the all-knowing "Man X" of his movie JFK, whosework "provided vital parts of the movies theme."49 The author, Fletcher Prouty, has long been a centralfigure in the theories of a "secret team" that has hijacked the state, "the crime of the century" being onlyone feat. He shows, Stone writes in his introduction, that the CIA killed John F. Kennedy because he waswithdrawing from Vietnam, failing to pursue the Cuba adventure with sufficient vigor, and"fundamentally...affecting the economic might of this nation-planet, U.S.A., Inc., and its New WorldOrder"; also undermining the Federal Reserve Board, "The CIA and its thousand-headed Medusa of aneconomic system," and the entire global order run by the "High Cabal" that rules the world. For thisachievement, Proutys "name will go down in history."Kennedys October 1963 withdrawal plan was "a seismic change that would have defused the Cold War,"Prouty writes, a consequence intolerable to the High Cabal, a global "super power elite" that bases itsthinking on "a quartet of the greatest propaganda schemes ever put forth by man": Lockes philosophy ofnatural law, the population theory of Malthus, Darwins theory of evolution, and Heisenbergs theory ofindeterminacy, a collection of "errors and confusion" that underlie the "invisible war" called the ColdWar. The Cabal had already selected Vietnam as a "major battleground" during World War II, when theyshipped stockpiles intended for the invasion of Japan to Vietnam, turning them over to Ho Chi Minh andhis top commander Vo Nguyen Giap. "Decisions of such magnitude" could only have been made by a"super power elite" standing above such figures as FDR, Churchill, Stalin, and other official leaders. Hesuggests Averell Harriman as the closest model.The entire game was to be ended by JFK, the "bombshell" being NSAM 263, a document soextraordinary that "many historians and journalists" deny its existence, and the record leading to it "hasbeen savagely distorted in basic government documents," including "such grandiose cover storycreations as the Pentagon Papers," with its "subtle anti-Kennedy slant" and selection of documents thatis "the source of the anti-Kennedy forgeries." The State Department history, reviewed earlier, is acomplex effort "to further obfuscate this record" in order to maintain "the cover story"; the proof is thatdocuments are presented in chronological order (as always in these publications), requiring the reader tocross-check (following the precise instructions given). NSAM 273 was "a total reversal of Kennedysown policy." Many other events of the past half-century have been "caused to happen" in accord with the"game plan of the High Cabal," Prouty relates. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s13.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:08 PM]
  • 153. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [13/15Apart from some phrases from the documentary record, the evidence is anecdotal, based on the authorsalleged direct participation in these awesome events.Again, questions of contemporary cultural history arise, but little more. Go to the next segment.48 Newman, BG, Jan. 14; JFK, 409-10; letter, Nation, May 18, 1992.49 Prouty, JFK, xviii. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s13.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:08 PM]
  • 154. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [14/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 14/15 Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet4. Kennedy and the Political NormA methodological point is perhaps worth mention. Suppose that we were to concoct a theory abouthistorical events at random, while permitting ourselves to assume arbitrary forms of deceit andfalsification. Then in the vast documentary record, we are sure to find scattered hints and other debristhat could be made to conform to the theory, while counter-evidence is nullified. By that method, one can"prove" virtually anything. For example, we can prove that JFK never intended to withdraw any troops,citing the elusiveness of NSAM 263 and his unwillingness to commit himself to the withdrawalrecommended by his war managers. Or we can prove that the attempt to assassinate Reagan was carriedout by dark forces (Alexander Haig, the CIA, etc.). After all, Reagan had backed away from using USforces directly in Central America (unlike JFK in Vietnam); he was cozying up to the Chicoms; he hadalready given intimations of the anti-nuclear passion that led him to offer to give away the store atRejkjavik and to join forces with the arch-fiend Gorbachev, whose perestroika was a transparent plot toentrap us; his associates were planning off-the-shelf international operations, bypassing intelligence andthe Pentagon. Obviously, he has to go. Or suppose there had been an attempt to assassinate LBJ in late1964, when he was refusing the call of the military to stand up to the Commies in Vietnam, pursuingGreat Society and civil rights programs with a zeal well beyond Kennedy, and about to defeat a realalternative, Barry Goldwater. Nothing is easier than to construct a high-level conspiracy to get rid of this"radical reformer." The task is only facilitated by a search for nuances and variations of phrasing in themountains of documents, usually committee jobs put together hastily with many compromises.This is not the way to learn about the world. In particular, the widespread belief that JFK was a secretdove has to be explained on some grounds other than his position on Vietnam.Are there other grounds? Another favored idea is that JFK had become a demon to the military-industrialcomplex because he was going to end the Cold War. To assess the thesis, we may turn again to thespeech he was to give in Dallas on the day of the assassination, with its proud boast about his vastincreases in Polaris submarines, Minuteman missiles, strategic bombers on 15-minute alert, nuclearweapons in strategic alert forces, readiness of conventional forces, procurement, naval construction andmodernization, tactical aircraft, and special forces. JFK military Keynesianism had raised Pentagonspending from $45.3 billion in 1960 to $52.1 billion in 1962, along with a huge increase in the spacebudget from $400 million in 1960 to $5 billion in 1965, much of it for the jingoist "man-on-the-moon"extravaganza. By the end of JFKs term, over 78 percent of all R&D was funded by the federalgovernment, overwhelmingly military and space (barely distinguishable), almost all for the "privatesector," a huge increase in three years. Recall further that all of this had been achieved on the pretext of afabricated missile gap and other fantasies about how Eisenhower was "frittering away" our wealth in"indulgences, luxuries, and frivolities" while the country faced "the possibility of annihilation or http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s14.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:11 PM]
  • 155. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [14/15humiliation" (senior Kennedy economic adviser Walter Heller). At Dallas, JFK intended to call for moreof the same, because "we dare not weary of the task" of confronting "the ambitions of internationalcommunism," his "monolithic and ruthless conspiracy."50 Reagan could hardly claim more.Perhaps the Dallas speech can be explained away by the "delude the right" gambit. More imaginationwould be required to deal with some facts that JFK did not intend to share with his audience: namely, hisknowledge that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had undertaken huge cuts in active Soviet militaryforces, verified by US intelligence, including elimination of half the tactical air force (with two-thirdsreduction in light-bomber units) and removal of about 1500 aircraft from the Navy, half of them scrappedand the rest turned over to air defense; that Khrushchev had withdrawn more than 15,000 troops fromEast Germany, calling on the US to undertake similar reductions of the military budget and in militaryforces in Europe and generally; and that in 1963 Khrushchev had proposed further reciprocal cuts --options privately discussed by Kennedy with high Soviet officials, but dismissed by the President as heexpanded his intervention in Vietnam.51This does not seem too promising a path.The 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) is regularly invoked in this connection. On its import, wemay turn to McGeorge Bundy, hardly one given to downplay the achievements of the KennedyAdministration, or its peaceful intent. The LTBT "was indeed limited," he writes, and did not impede thetechnological advance in nuclear weaponry, which is what was important to US strategic planners.Bundy agrees with Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission under Kennedy andJohnson, that "what produced the treaty was steadily growing worldwide concern over the radioactivefallout from testing," along with Kennedys ability to show "moderation" after facing down Khrushchevat the missile crisis, and the latters interest in appearing to be "on the same level" as the US after thatdemonstration of Soviet weakness. The same show of strength enabled JFK to deliver a "peace speech"in 1963, Bundy observes.52It also set off the next phase of the arms race, as the USSR tried to compensate for the weakness that hadbeen exposed by JFKs military build-up and uncompromising public posture, which helped bring theworld all too close to nuclear war.Another common belief is that JFK was so incensed over the failure of the CIA at the Bay of Pigs that hevowed to smash it to bits, sowing the seeds for right-wing hatreds. Again, there are problems. Ashistorians of the Agency have pointed out, it was Lyndon Johnson who treated the CIA "with contempt,"while JFKs distress over the Bay of Pigs "in no way undermined his firm faith in the principle of covertoperations, and in the CIAs mission to carry them out." JFK promised to "redouble his efforts" and to"improve" covert operations. He fired the CIAs harshest critic (Chester Bowles) and appointed asDirector the respected John McCone, who "revitalized the intelligence process," though persistentfailures kept the Agency from returning to the "golden age." Nevertheless, the CIA was"reestablished...in White House favor" and became a "significant voice in policy making" underKennedy, particularly in 1963, "as covert actions multiplied in Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and Africa" http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s14.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:11 PM]
  • 156. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [14/15(including new instructions in June 1963 to increase covert operations against Castro). Under JFK, theCIA Director became "a principal participant in the administration, on a par with the Secretary of State orof Defense." The enthusiasm of the Kennedy brothers for counterinsurgency and covert operations is, ofcourse, notorious.53Roger Hilsman, Director of State Department Intelligence under Kennedy, writes of the efforts of theAdministration to streamline intelligence operations and make them more "effective and appropriate,"overcoming the incompetence of recent operations so that later ones would better serve US interests. Theintent is well illustrated by Hilsmans discussion of CIA Director Allen Dulless defense of the successfuloverthrow of the governments of Iran (Mossadegh) and Guatemala (Arbenz). "Dulles is fundamentallyright," Hilsman states. If the Communists remain "antagonistic" and use subversion, then we have a right"to protect and defend ourselves" -- by overthrowing a conservative parliamentary regime or a reformistdemocratic capitalist government and imposing a murderous terror state.54 Go to the next segment.50Dallas speech cited by Paterson, Kennedys Quest; Raskin, op. cit., from Public Papers of thePresidents. Du Boff, Accumulation, 101. Heller cited by Richard Du Boff and Edward Herman, "TheNew Economics and the Contradictions of Keynesianism," Review of Radical Political Economics,URPE, Aug. 1972. On these matters, see MacDougall, Heavens.51 See DD, 26; 501, ch. 3, n. 12.52 Bundy, Danger, 460-1.53 Jeffreys-Jones, CIA; Ranelagh, Agency. See also Blum, CIA.54 Hilsman, To Move a Nation, 85f. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s14.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:11 PM]
  • 157. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [15/15 Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Chapter Two: Interpretations Segment 15/15 Previous segment |Bibliography | Contents | Archive | ZNetFurthermore, as Robert Spears points out, those most incensed by JFKs efforts to improve the efficiencyof the CIA after the Bay of Pigs fiasco were not right-wing jingoists, but the "Bold Easterners," a groupnot unlike the "action intellectuals" of the New Frontier. The "decline in the reputation and standing ofthe CIA" paralleled the "decline in the abundance and power of the Ivy Leaguers." LBJ reduced their rolein the decision-making process, and Nixon "consciously sought to exclude the CIA from power" becauseof his contempt for the "Ivy League liberals" who still dominated the Agency, he felt. The Nixon yearswere "the nadir for the CIA."55Johnson and Nixon, then, should have been the targets for CIA resentment and plots, not JFK. Thereseems to be little promise here.Others have argued that Kennedys threat was to the business elite and the wealthy, a position hard tosquare with fiscal policies that overwhelmingly benefited higher income groups, according to an analysisin the National Tax Journal, including the 1962 investment credit ("a bribe to capital formation," in PaulSamuelsons phrase) and the Revenue Act of 1964 proposed by Kennedy just before his assassination,which "provided for regressive personal and corporate income tax cuts," economists Du Boff andHerman observe. Note also that no policies relevant to the various theories about Kennedy-the- reformerwere reversed under LBJ; those most opposed by the right were extended.56Some have brought forth Latin America as the sign of Kennedys incipient radicalism. Cuba poses acertain problem for that thesis, notably Kennedys terrorist war after the Bay of Pigs, which brokeentirely new grounds in international terrorism. The threat of invasion it posed also appears to have beena significant factor contributing to the missile crisis. It is often alleged that Kennedy helped end the crisisby committing the US not to invade Cuba. That is not true, Raymond Garthoff pointed out in hisauthoritative insiders account. There was no such commitment, public or private; the "studied silence"on the matter was "a considered position maintained throughout the Kennedy and Johnsonadministrations," to be ended in August 1970, "when for the first time American leaders unequivocallyaccepted the mutual commitments" of 1962. After the crisis ended, Kennedy initiated a new sabotage andterror program, and still sought to "dig Castro out of there" (memorandum of private conversation, March1963). US-based terrorist operations continued until the assassination, according to reports from the FBI,which monitored them; though "with the assassination, ...the heart went out of the offensive," MichaelMcClintock observes, and the operations were terminated in April 1964 by LBJ, who regarded them as"a damned Murder, Inc. in the Caribbean."57One of the most significant legacies left by the Administration was its 1962 decision to shift the missionof the Latin American military from "hemispheric defense" to "internal security," while providing themeans and training to ensure that the task would be properly performed. As described by Charles http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s15.html (1 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:13 PM]
  • 158. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [15/15Maechling, who led counterinsurgency and internal defense planning from 1961 to 1966, that historicdecision led to a change from toleration "of the rapacity and cruelty of the Latin American military" to"direct complicity" in "the methods of Heinrich Himmlers extermination squads." The aftermath is wellknown, including the establishment of the death squads of Central America; the meeting of CentralAmerican presidents in March 1963, chaired by JFK, was "the landmark event in the formation of thenational security apparatus" in the region, Alan Nairn comments.These improved modes of repression were a central component of Kennedys Latin American policies, acompanion to the Alliance for Progress, which required effective population control because of the direimpact of its development programs on much of the population. Related projects helped subvertdemocracy and bring on brutally repressive regimes in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala,British Guiana, Chile, Brazil, and elsewhere. The export-promotion policies of the Alliance broughtabout comforting "economic miracles" in the technical sense. Unemployment increased from 18 to 25million and agricultural production per person declined during the "decade of development." The"economic miracles" turned into the crisis of the 70s, setting the stage for vastly increased US-backedterror and forecasts of new "economic miracles" as the old policies are reinstated. Six military coupsoverthrew popular regimes during the Kennedy years, ten more later; in several cases, KennedyAdministration policies contributed materially to the outcome. In 1962-1963, Kennedys CIA initiated its(successful) program to subvert the 1964 election in Chile, because, as the NSC determined, "We are notprepared to risk a Socialist or FRAP [Allende] victory, for fear of nationalization of U.S. investments"and "probable Communist influence." The role of the Kennedy Administration in bringing about theBrazilian military coup of 1964 was still more significant.Putting aside the catastrophic investor-oriented economic policies, there is no serious question that"Through its recognition policy, internal security initiatives, and military and economic aid programs, the[Kennedy] Administration demonstrably bolstered regimes and groups that were undemocratic,conservative, and frequently repressive. The short-term security that anti-Communist elites could providewas purchased at the expense of long-term political and social democracy" (Stephen Rabe).58Without proceeding any further, it is not easy to make a case that JFK represented some departure fromthe norm of business rule.In fact, there are striking resemblances between the Kennedy and Reagan Administrations. Both cameinto office with impassioned denunciations of the wimps in power, who were presiding over Americasdecline while the Evil Empire pursued its implacable course towards world conquest. Both were "full ofbelligerence," "sort of looking for a chance to prove their muscle" (Chester Bowles on JFK); they warnedthe country that "the complacent and the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept awaywith the debris of history. Only the strong...can possibly survive" (JFK). Both were enthusiasticinnovators in the art of international terrorism and state terror. Both launched huge military build-ups onfraudulent pretexts, with the traditional twin aims of using their muscle abroad and extending thetaxpayer subsidy to high-tech industry. Both initiated regressive fiscal programs for the benefit ofinvestors. In both cases, corporate and financial sectors called for limits on these Keynesian excesses;rhetoric became more muted and conciliatory and military spending levelled (though in the Kennedy- http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s15.html (2 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:13 PM]
  • 159. Rethinking Camelot: Chapter 2 [15/15Johnson case, Vietnam intervened).There were also differences. In the early 60s, the US remained the worlds dominant power, and couldafford to flaunt prospects of "great societies at home and grand designs abroad" (Walter Heller); 20 yearslater, the great societies would have to go. Kennedy made a play for the intellectual community, whomReagan treated with contempt. The imagery, accordingly, is much different; the reality, less so.59It seems more than coincidental that fascination with tales of intrigue about Camelot lost reached theirpeak in 1992 just as discontent with all institutions reached historic peaks, along with a general sense ofpowerlessness and gloom about the future, and the traditional one-party, two-faction candidate-producingmechanism was challenged by a billionaire with a dubious past, a "blank slate" on which ones favoritedreams could be inscribed. The audiences differ, but the JFK-Perot movements share a millenarian cast,reminiscent of the cargo cults of South Sea islanders who await the return of the great ships with theirbounty. These developments tell us a good bit about the state of American culture at a time of generalmalaise, unfocused anger and discontent, and effective dissolution of the means for the public to becomeengaged in a constructive way in determining their fate.60 Go to the bibliography.55 Spears, in Jeffreys-Jones and Lownie, North American Spies.56 Du Boff and Herman, op. cit.; Du Boff, Accumulation, 101.57Paterson, in Paterson, Kennedys Quest; Garthoff, Détente, 80; McClintock, Instruments, 187, 185. SeeNI, 274-5. On JFKs terror against Cuba, see Hinckle & Turner, Deadly Secrets. Missile Crisis, see 501,148.58Rabe, in Paterson, Kennedys Quest. Nairn, Progressive, May 1984. See TTT, and sources cited; WalterLaFeber, "The Alliances in Retrospect," in Maguire and Brown, Bordering; Williams, ExportAgriculture. Kennedy and Brazil, 501, ch. 7.3. On "economic miracles," see 501, ch. 7.59Bowles, Oral History; Kennedy, Public Papers of the Presidents, 1961, cited by Paterson, op. cit., 19,136. See TTT, ch. 4.60 See 501, ch. 11. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-c02-s15.html (3 of 3) [3/9/2003 12:15:13 PM]
  • 160. Rethinking Camelot: Glossary Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Bibliography | Contents | Archive | ZNet GlossaryPeriodicals/News OrganizationsAP = Associated PressBG = Boston GlobeBMJ = British Medical JournalBW = Business WeekCAHI = Central America Historical InstituteCAN = Central America NewspakCAR = Central America ReportCIIR = Catholic Institute of International RelationsCOHA = Council on Hemispheric AffairsCSM = Christian Science MonitorCT = Chicago TribuneFEER = Far Eastern Economic ReviewFT = Financial TimesG&M = Toronto Globe and MailIHT = International Herald TribuneIPS = Inter Press ServiceLANU = Latin America News UpdateLAT = Los Angeles TimesMH = Miami HeraldNCR = National Catholic ReporterNR = The New RepublicNYRB = The New York Review of BooksNYT = The New York TimesSFC = San Francisco ChronicleSFE = San Francisco ExaminerWOLA = Washington Office on Latin AmericaWP = The Washington PostWP MG = Washington Post Manchester Guardian WeeklyWSJ = The Wall Street JournalBooksAPNM = American Power and the New MandarinsAWWA = At War with AsiaCOT = Culture of TerrorismDD = Deterring DemocracyFRS = For Reasons of StateFTR = The Fateful Triangle http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-gloss.html (1 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:15:15 PM]
  • 161. Rethinking Camelot: GlossaryMC = Manufacturing ConsentNI = Necessary IllusionsP&E = Pirates and EmperorsPEHR = Political Economy and Human RightsPI = On Power and IdeologyPPV = Pentagon PapersRC = Rethinking CamelotTNCW = Towards a New Cold WarTTT = Turning the Tide Go to the table of contents. http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-gloss.html (2 of 2) [3/9/2003 12:15:15 PM]
  • 162. Rethinking Camelot: Bibliography Rethinking Camelot Copyright © 1993 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press. Glossary | Contents | Archive | ZNet BibliographyBall, George. The Past has another Pattern (Norton, 1982)Bergerud, Eric. The Dynamics of Defeat (Westview, 1991)Berman, Larry. Planning a Tragedy (Norton, 1982)Blum, William. The CIA: a forgotten history (Zed Books, 1986)Brown, Thomas. JFK: History of an Image (Indiana, 1988)Browne, Malcolm. The New Face of War (Bobbs Merrill, 1965)Bundy, McGeorge. Danger and Survival (Random House, 1988)Chomsky, Noam. American Power and the New Mandarins (Pantheon, 1969) [APNM]--. At War with Asia (Pantheon, 1970) [AWWA]--. For Reasons of State (Pantheon, 1973) [FRS]--. Turning the Tide (South End Press, 1985) [TTT]--. Necessary Illusions (South End Press, 1989) [NI]--. Deterring Democracy (Verso, 1991; updated edition, Hill & Wang, 1992) [DD]--. Year 501 (South End Press, 1993) [501]--. Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda (Common Courage, 1993) [LL]--, and Edward Herman. Political Economy of Human Rights (South End Press, 1979) [PEHR]--, and Howard Zinn, eds. Pentagon Papers, vol. 5, Analytic Essays and Index (Beacon Press, 1972) [PP http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-bibli.html (1 of 5) [3/9/2003 12:15:18 PM]
  • 163. Rethinking Camelot: BibliographyV]Cooper, Chester. The Lost Crusade (Dodd, Mead, 1970)Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War, vol. II (Princeton, 1990)Drinnon, Richard. Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building (Minnesota,1980)Du Boff, Richard. Accumulation and Power (ME Sharpe, 1989)Duffy, Dan, ed. Informed Dissent (Vietnam Generation, Burning Cities Press, 1992)Duncanson, Denis. Government and Revolution in Vietnam (Oxford, 1968)Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on War (Doubleday, 1967)--, and Marcus Raskin, eds. Vietnam Reader (Vintage, 1965)Garthoff, Raymond. Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Brookings, 1987)Gibbon, William Conrad, ed. The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War, part II, 1961 1964 (Princeton,1986)Giglio, James. The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (Kansas, 1991)Griffen, William, and John Marciano. Lessons of the Vietnam War: A Critical Examination of SchoolTexts (Rowman and Allanheld, 1979)Herman, Edward. The Real Terror Network (South End Press, 1982)--, and Frank Brodhead. Demonstration Elections (South End, 1984)--, and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon, 1988) [MC]Hilsman, Roger. To Move a Nation (Dell, 1967)Hinckle, Warren, and William Turner. Deadly Secrets (Thunders Mouth, 1992)Horsman, Reginald. Expansion and American Indian Policy (Michigan State, 1967) http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-bibli.html (2 of 5) [3/9/2003 12:15:18 PM]
  • 164. Rethinking Camelot: BibliographyJeffreys Jones, Rhodri. The CIA & American Democracy (Yale, 1989)--, and Andrew Lownie, eds. North American Spies (Edinburgh, 1992)Kahin, George. Intervention (Knopf, 1986)Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam, A History (Viking, 1983)Kennan, George F. Russia Leaves the War (Princeton, 1956)Kiernan, V.G. The Lords of Human Kind (Columbia, 1986)Kinnard, Douglas. The War Managers (University Press of New England, 1977)Kolko, Gabriel. Anatomy of a War (Pantheon, 1985)Leffler, Michael. A Preponderance of Power (Stanford, 1992)Lewy, Guenter. America in Vietnam (Oxford, 1978)Maguire, Andrew, and Janet W. Brown, eds. Bordering on Trouble (Adler & Adler, 1986)McClintock, Michael. Instruments of Statecraft (Pantheon, 1992)McDougall, Walter. ...the Heavens and the Earth (Basic Books, 1985)Mowlana, Hamid, George Gerbner, and Herbert Schiller. Triumph of the Image (Westview, 1992)Newman, John. JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power (Warner, 1992)ODonnell, Kenneth, and David Powers. "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye" (Little, Brown, 1972)Paterson, Thomas, ed. Kennedys Quest for Victory (Oxford, 1989)Prouty, Fletcher. JFK (Birch Lane, 1992)Race, Jeffrey. War Comes to Long An (California, 1971)Ranelagh John. The Agency (Simon & Schuster, 1986) http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-bibli.html (3 of 5) [3/9/2003 12:15:18 PM]
  • 165. Rethinking Camelot: BibliographySchlesinger, Arthur. A Thousand Days (Houghton Mifflin, 1965; Fawcett, 1967)-- The Bitter Heritage (Houghton Mifflin, 1966)-- Robert Kennedy and His Times (Houghton Mifflin, 1978)Shaplen, Robert. The Lost Revolution (Harper & Row, 1965)Shapley, Deborah. Promise and Power. (Little, Brown, 1993.)Simpson, Christopher. The Splendid Blond Beast (Grove, 1993)Sorenson, Theodore. Kennedy (Harper & Row, 1965)-- The Kennedy Legacy (MacMillan, 1969)Taylor, Maxwell. Swords and Plowshares (Norton, 1972)Tregaskis, Richard. Vietnam Diary (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963)Tsou, Tang, ed. China in Crisis (Chicago, 1968), vol. IIUS Government, Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States, Vietnam, 1961 1963[FRUSV], vols. I IV-- Foreign Relations of the United States, Vietnam, 1964 1968, vol. I [FRUSV 64]--, Dept. of Defense. Pentagon Papers, Gravel edition (Beacon, 1971) [PP]; 4 volumes. Fifth volume ofanalytic essays and index, 1972Vickery, Michael. Cambodia: 1975 1982 (South End Press, 1984)Weeks, William Earl. John Quincy Adams and American Global Empire (Kentucky, 1992)Westing, Arthur H. Herbicides in War (SIPRI; Taylor & Francis, 1984)Williams, Robert. Export Agriculture and the Crisis in Central America (North Carolina, 1986)Yergin, Daniel. Shattered Peace (Houghton Mifflin, 1977)Zinn, Howard. Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal (Beacon, 1967) http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-bibli.html (4 of 5) [3/9/2003 12:15:18 PM]
  • 166. Rethinking Camelot: Bibliography Go to the table of contents.http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-bibli.html (5 of 5) [3/9/2003 12:15:18 PM]